29th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner Announces Honorees

29th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to Honor Kakeem Olajuwon, Warren Sapp, Pedro Martinez and more

July 30, 2014 The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, will present the 29th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on Monday, September 29, 2014. The annual event, hosted by NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti and his son Marc, and chaired by Mark Dalton, raises funds to support the ground-breaking spinal cord injury research done by researchers at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis – the world’s most comprehensive spinal cord injury research center which is based at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Tom Brokaw will serve as Master of Ceremonies of the dinner, which honors philanthropic heroes and sports legends that inspire and motivate those affected by spinal cord injuries.

The celebration assembles sports legends, celebrities, philanthropic icons and corporate leaders to support the efforts of The Buoniconti Fund Board of Directors and numerous longtime benefactors. The 2014 Great Sports Legends include:

•    Hakeem Olajuwon – Basketball Hall of Famer, considered one of the best centers to play the game, Olajuwon rose to stardom on a collegiate level, and then with the Houston Rockets. Nicknamed, “The Dream,” Olajuwon was a 12-time all-star, 2-time NBA champion and the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals MVP. Olajuwon is the NBA’s all-time leader in blocked shots, 8th in points scored, and 11th in total rebounds.

•    Warren Sapp – NFL Hall of Famer who in 2002 led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory. Sapp was an integral part of the defensive line for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. Sapp recently became only the second Buccaneer to have his jersey retired.

•    Pedro Martinez – Eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner, and 2004 World Series Champion with the Boston Red Sox, Pedro Martinez is known as one of the best pitchers in MLB history. Over the course of his 18-season career, Martinez played for the Dodgers, Phillies, Mets and Red Sox.

•    Joe Sakic – Over the course of his NHL Hall of Fame hockey career, former Colorado Avalanche player Sakic was one of the most productive forwards in the game. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, Sakic helped lead Team Canada Team to its first ice hockey gold medal in 50 years and was voted the tournament’s most valuable player.

•    Bill Cowher – Former NFL head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 15 years, leading the team to two Super Bowl appearances during his tenure and winning the Super Bowl in 2006. Cowher also spent six years in the NFL as a player prior to embarking on his successful coaching career. He currently serves as a studio analyst for The NFL Today.

•    Mary Lou Retton – One of the most decorated U.S. Olympic athletes in history, Mary Lou Retton won five medals including gold in the individual all-around competition where she earned perfect 10’s on the floor routine and the vault. 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of her Olympic titles.

•    Lauryn Williams – Williams is one of only five athletes, and the only American woman, to have won a medal in both a Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Her first medal came in 2004 in Athens for the 100 meter, her second in 2014 in Sochi for bobsled.

Honorees for the evening include:

•    Bill Simon – President and CEO of Walmart U.S., Simon is responsible for the strategic direction and performance of Walmart’s U.S. business. Simon is receiving The Buoniconti Fund’s Outstanding Business Leader Award.

•    Grant Hill – Grant played professionally for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers in his 19 seasons. Hill is a seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time NCAA Champion at Duke University. Hill will receive the 2014 Buoniconti Fund Award for his dedication to community service.

•    Calvin Hill – Retired NFL Pro-Bowl running back, Calvin Hill helped the Dallas Cowboys win one Super Bowl and two NFC Championship Games. Calvin Hill also will receive the 2014 Buoniconti Fund Award for his charitable works.

•    Erik Compton – Professional Golfer and two-time heart transplant patient who finished runner-up at the 2014 US Open Championships will be the 2014 Inspiration Award Recipient.

“We are changing medical history with five FDA approved clinical trials, including a revolutionary Phase 1 clinical trial transplanting human Schwann Cells to treat patients with recent spinal cord injuries. The Miami Project has not let hard work stand in its way to find a cure.  We are driven to find a cure for paralysis and now, science has proven that we are a heartbeat away from our goal,” said Nick Buoniconti, Founder of The Buoniconti Fund. “We are extremely honored that so many legendary athletes and influential figures will join us at the Great Sports Legend Dinner, helping us raise awareness and funds to stand up for those who cannot.”

Our “Legend Alumni” and Honorees include:  Muhammad Ali,  Willie Mays,  Andre Agassi, Tony Hawk, Cal Ripken, Jr., Gloria Estefan, Mia Hamm, Wayne Gretzky, George Foreman, Dara Torres, Julio Iglesias, Helio Castroneves, Troy Aikman, Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Joe Namath, Dan Marino, Mike Piazza, Walter Cronkite, Gabrielle Reece, Pat Riley, Kelly Slater, Joe Torre and many other athletes and heroes who recognize that paralyzing injuries can and do occur in the pursuit of athletic careers and everyday lives.

The event is expected to sell out and raise millions of dollars for the spinal cord injury research programs at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The evening will begin with cocktails and a Buy It Now Store where attendees can purchase one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia including the opportunity to golf with the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus, amazing jewelry, spectacular getaways, a unique Kidz Korner and other exclusive items.

The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, through The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, is committed to finding a cure for paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury and to seeing millions worldwide walk again.  Since its inception in 1985, the Great Sports Legends Dinner has honored more than 303 sports legends and honorees and has raised $99 million for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs.

Tickets start at $850 per person and can be purchased by phone at (305)-243-4656.  Sponsorships and opportunities to sit with legends are also available.