26th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner Raises $10 Million

The legendary Diana Ross dazzled the crowd at the star-studded evening

SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 – Sports legends, celebrities, philanthropic heroes and corporate leaders again came out in force in support of Nick and Marc Buoniconti for the 26th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, presented by Phil Knight of Nike.  The sold-out celebration, held each year at the New York City’s famed Waldorf=Astoria, benefits The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and raised more than $10 million to support the ground-breaking spinal cord injury research being done by researchers at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Sports Broadcasting Legend Bob Costas returned as the Master of Ceremonies for the fourth year in a row and the evening’s honorees included legendary Coach Don Shula who received 2011 Buoniconti Fund Award and Jerry Rice who was honored with the 2011 Humanitarian Award. The 2011 Great Sports Legends included Ernie Els, Chris Mullin, Andre Dawson, Harry Carson, Clark Gillies, John Force and Nancy Kerrigan.

“After 26 years of coming together with legendary figures to stand up for those who can’t, we are closer than ever to finding a cure for paralysis,” said Nicholas A. Buoniconti, Founder of The Buoniconti Fund and The Miami Project. “What started out as a promise to my son has been transformed into a promise from our family and researchers to the millions of people around the world affected by paralysis.”

Notables in attendance included: Mr. Las Vegas Wayne Newton, 10 time Olympic medalist and track and field legend Carl Lewis;  long jump Olympic gold medalist Bob Beamon; hockey hall of famer and NY Rangers Legend Rod Gilbert; former Miami Dolphins 17-0 quarterback Earl Morrall; NY Giants football great Brian Kelley; three time world boxing champion Carlos Ortiz;  Olympic gold medalist in swimming Janet Evans; former Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl wide receiver Nat Moore; pioneering sportscaster from CBS Lesley Visser; two time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots Damien Woody; current NY Knicks assistant coach and former NBA star Herb Williams;former Miami Dolphins player Dick Anderson; Hall of famer, NBA champion and finals MVP Rick Barry; Olympic four man bobsledding gold medalist Stephen Holcomb; Tony Winning Broadway Legend Michael Cerveris; 1986 NY Giants Super Bowl team player Karl Nelson; NY Giants Pro Bowl and Super Bowl champion offensive lineman David Diehl; former NY Giants receiving great Amani Toomer; former MLB All Star and World Series Champion pitcher Scott Erickson; sports personality, actress, host and model Lisa Guerrero;    star of the HBO series Luck Richard Kind; former Super Bowl MVP from the Redskins, Mark Rypien; champion boxer Eric Kelly; and so many others.

The Legends and celebrities walked the red-carpet into a luxurious evening that included Tiffany & Co.’s Mystery Blue Box Wall and a Buy It Now Store where attendees purchased one of a kind sports memorabilia and other unique items. The auctions raised more than $800,000 and was a thrilling experience with participants competing for larger than life experiences, including a once in a lifetime opportunity to play in a foursome with golfing legend Jack Nicklaus at the Tenth Annual Buoniconti Fund Celebrity Golf Invitational, Azamara Club Cruises International Trip for Two, BMW 328i Sedan, Soccer Game for Two and a 4.6 karat diamond Bracelet; and a luxury package to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Since the Great Sports Legends Dinner was created in 1985, the event has honored more than 286 sports legends and honorees and raised more than $75 million for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs.

Legend Alumni and Honorees include: Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Andre Agassi, Jack Nicklaus, Tony Hawk, Cal Ripken, Jr., Gloria Estefan, Magic Johnson, Dr. Maya Angelou, Mia Hamm, Tommy Lee Jones, Wayne Gretzky, Charles Barkley, George Foreman, Dara Torres, Julio Iglesias, Helio Castroneves, Troy Aikman, Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Mike Piazza, Julius Erving, Walter Cronkite, Gabrielle Reece, Pat Riley, Kelly Slater, Willie Mays, Bill Russell, Michael Irvin, Barbara and Jack Nicklaus, Dan Marino, Tom Brokaw, Christine E. Lynn, and many other athletes and heroes who recognize that paralyzing injuries can and do occur in the pursuit of athletic careers and everyday lives.

Sponsors for the evening included Phil Knight of Nike, United Airlines, Diageo, HBO Sports and Tiffany & Co.