Editor's note: This is the second story in a series on the 2018 inductees to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees also include Paul Candies, Lewis Cook, Jack Hains, Jerry Simmons, Russ Springer, Brandon Stokley and Reggie Wayne. Induction ceremonies are June 30 in Natchitoches.
Larry Wright’s basketball journeys always seemed to reach the same destination.
No matter where he played, from Richwood High School to Grambling to professional ball, Wright was always part of teams that won big.
“Winning has always been number one since I can remember ... starting to play at an early age,” Wright said. “Even as a small kid going to the rec center, winning was always the number one deal with me.”
Wright was a two-time Parade Magazine All-American at Richwood and won a Class 3A state championship in 1972.
He transferred to Western High School in Washington D.C. as a senior and his team won the city championship. Grambling won the 1976 SWAC tournament title with Wright starring as the conference player of the year.
Drafted in the first round by the Washington Bullets in 1976, Wright joined the franchise that won the NBA championship in 1978.
He finished his playing days as an international star, delivering a European Championship for Italy’s Banco DiRoma in 1983-84.
For all his accomplishments, Wright has earned induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018. He and 10 others will be enshrined at the annual induction dinner and ceremony at the Natchitoches Events Center on Saturday, June 30.
“He’s had a storybook life,” said son-in-law Damon West, the head coach at Rayville High School. “You just have to put the pieces together.”
Important people along the way shared Wright’s story, starting with his mother Recie Hollis. He watched as she worked multiple jobs to provide for her family. Wright was the sixth of nine children.
“I wanted to do my best to be a winner,” he said. “It comes from seeing my mother raise nine kids by herself. Seeing her get up going to work every day and never complain about anything.
"She always told us that if we were going to do something, do it your very best. She never allowed us to come home and complain about anything."
At Richwood, another important figure entered his life when Hershell West, the man who would become his high school coach and mentor, spotted Wright in the gym when he was in junior high.
“I first saw him as an eighth-grader,” Hershell West said. “He was a small player, but a competitor. He was just a winner.”
Wright said West encouraged him to pursue excellence in basketball in a way no one ever had before.
“Nobody ever showed interest in me the way he did,” Wright said. “He saw me play and he said to me that if worked at it, I could end up going to college on scholarship.”
West, who had been a great player himself at Grambling, told Wright he had a future in basketball if he would put in the work.
“Nobody had ever said anything that encouraging to me,” Wright said. “After he said that to me, I’d make a daily visit to his class so he could talk to me about the game of basketball. I was like a sponge. Whatever he said, I would listen at it.”
Wright became vocal about his goals, which included earning a college scholarship and reaching the NBA.
“I remember one day in ninth grade, I told him I’d make it to the NBA,” said Wright, who played in the backcourt as former NFL wide receiver and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Sammie White. “He said if I believed it, I could do it.
"Never from that day until I went to the NBA did I put a basketball down.”