Class of 2018 Announced at Findlay Toyota
Hall welcomes five individuals; Las Vegas Thunder
The Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame executive committee announced today the Class of 2018. This class includes Al Bernstein, Armon Gilliam, Forrest Griffin, Rossi Ralenkotter, Jim Reitz and the Las Vegas Thunder. Including this induction class, the Hall of Fame now consists of 104 members.
“The class of 2018 is accomplished in so many ways,” said Hall of Fame Executive Director Jim Lambright. “We have outstanding athletes in their sport in Armon Gilliam and Forrest Griffin, a successful mentor in Jim Reitz, a leader in sports broadcasting in Al Bernstein, a community and business leader in Rossi Ralenkotter and one of the city’s foundational franchises in the Las Vegas Thunder. We are honored to bestow upon them the state’s highest sports recognition by welcoming them to the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.”
Best known to a national audience as the voice of boxing, Bernstein has carved out a career of varied endeavors and achieved success in television, movies and as a live stage performer. He is considered by many as the most recognizable and respected boxing commentator for more than 35 years of broadcasting and serves as the analyst for Showtime Championship Boxing. Since May of 2003, Bernstein has worked on the Showtime Network. In 2012, Bernstein received the highest honor in boxing by being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is one of only a few broadcasters to be so honored.
Nicknamed 'The Hammer' for his prowess inside, Gilliam played at UNLV from 1984-87 and was a key member of the Runnin’ Rebel's second NCAA Final Four team in 1987. That team finished the season with a 37-2 overall record and was 18-0 in Big West Conference play. During the magical 1986-87 season, Gilliam averaged 23.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a senior. He was a second-team All-American selection in 1987, and is seventh on the all-time UNLV career list in scoring with 1,855 career points. The 1987 Big West Conference Player of the Year, Gilliam was also named first team all-conference in 1987 and second team in 1986. He went on to play in 929 games over 13 seasons in the NBA.
Griffin entered UFC during the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter® in 2005. After earning a spot in the show’s finale, Griffin and fellow Hall of Famer Stephan Bonner engaged in a thrilling fight that is widely regarded as the launching platform for MMA’s current success and popularity. During his UFC career, Griffin held notable victories over Rich Franklin, Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson, at which time he captured the light heavyweight championship. Griffin ended his professional competing career in 2012 with a victory over fellow UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz. He ended his career with a record of 19-7. He currently serves as the Vice President, Athlete Development at Zuffa, LLC, which operates UFC.
As President/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Ralenkotter is responsible for marketing and branding Las Vegas and Southern Nevada as the world’s most desirable destination for leisure and business travel. Under his leadership, the LVCVA launched the most successful branding campaign in tourism history, which is best known for its oft-repeated tagline, “What happens here, stays here™.” Under Mr. Ralenkotter’s oversight, Las Vegas has been the world’s trade show capital for 23 consecutive years, hosting 54 of the largest 250 trade shows. In addition, Ralenkotter has been instrumental in the development of Las Vegas as a major sports destination, helping attract major events like the National Finals Rodeo, the NBA All-Star Game, the USA Sevens rugby tournament, two NASCAR race weekends, the Professional Bull Riders and more.
After taking over the UNLV swimming program in the 1980-81 season, Reitz became the longest-tenured coach in UNLV athletics history. He steadily built the Rebels into one of the most successful squads on campus. The final tally after his 35 years included: 14 conference championships (highlighted by a run of 10 titles in the last 11 years by the men's program), 29 combined conference Most Valuable Swimmers, 16 combined conference Coach of the Year honors, and 17 combined all-time top-30 team finishes at the NCAA Championships.
The roots of professional hockey in Las Vegas arrived in 1993 when the father and son duo of Hank and Ken Stickney brought the Las Vegas Thunder to the city, as an International Hockey League expansion team. Many thought they were crazy to have hockey in the desert but they knew Las Vegas was ready when the puck dropped on October 15, 1993 in front of a sold out Thomas & Mack Center. Throughout the team’s history several notable NHL players would wear the Las Vegas Thunder jersey, including NHL stars such as Clint Malarchuk, Curtis Joseph, Petr Nedved, Alexei Yashin, Rod Buskas and Brent Gretzky. The Thunder proved that Las Vegas was a hockey city and the Stickney’s quest to bring hockey to the desert, truly paved the way for the future success of professional hockey in Las Vegas.
The six inductees will be honored Friday, May 11 at the Orleans Arena. Updates are also available on Facebook (Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame) and Twitter (@SNSHF).
The Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization committed to recognizing the outstanding achievements by Southern Nevada athletes, both in the world of sports and the local community.
Proceeds from the event will be donated to organizations committed to the support and enhancement of Southern Nevada youth through active participation in programs designed to promote leadership, values and character through sports.