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Meet 'Sweet Lou' Dunbar of Harlem Globetrotters & other LA Sports HOF inductees - Peanut Tillman

Jimmy Watson,
Shreveport Times, June 27, 2021
Click here for the photo gallery of inductees into the 2021 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas.
Click here for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Click here for the Athletic Network Profile for Charles "Peanut" Tillman.
NATCHITOCHES – Long before he thought about playing for the Harlem Globetrotters, Minden’s Louis “Sweet Lou” Dunbar practiced on dirt courts, sometimes in the rain, in rural Webster Parish.

On game days, he and some of his high school buddies ventured to a concrete court on Shreveport’s Union Street in the Caddo Heights neighborhood for a game against “the city’s” best. That meant facing off against a young 7-footer named Robert Parish who would eventually star at Centenary and win four NBA titles, including three with the Boston Celtics. 

“Going over there to play, you really couldn’t describe it,” Dunbar said prior to his 2020 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction. “You couldn’t see the lines on the floor because the people packed the gymnasium and people were on the roof just to watch us play – and we’re just high school kids. Rob was a great talent, as we all know. But those were some great, memorable moments.”

Dunbar was part of a Northwest Louisiana-heavy class of 11 individuals which were slated to be inducted last summer before COVID-19 forced a postponement. Instead, they were enshrined in Saturday’s banquet at the Natchitoches Event Center. The 2021 Hall of Famers are slated for an Aug. 26-28 ceremony.

Shreveport-based sports broadcaster Tim Brando, former Louisiana Tech All-American Angela Turner-Johnson, Vivian native and Duck Commander Phil Robertson and Shreveport native Kent Lowe were included in the current class.

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They’re joined by 94-year-old former Monroe Richwood coach Mackie Freeze, former St. Augustine and NBA guard Kerry Kittles, former UL Lafayette cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman and former Grambling Tiger and world class body builder Ronnie Coleman. Completing the inductee lineup were Opelousas native and former Tennessee women’s athletic director Joan Cronan and Baton Rouge Advocate sportswriter Robin Fambrough.

The 6-foot-10 Dunbar was a Louisiana Mr. Basketball coming out of Webster High School (now Minden). He spent 27 years playing in front of 10 million fans for the Harlem Globetrotters while competing in 90 countries on six continents. 

When asked if his Globetrotters ever lost a game: “Beating the Globetrotters is like shooting Santa Claus,” he joked.

For Brando, success in broadcasting was all about “getting the reps,” which he did starting as a 14-year-old calling Neville football games with his father in Monroe. Later, he started the first sports talk radio show in Baton Rouge before driving to Shreveport with Lowe on Friday’s to call high school games.

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Brando, 65, has used his platform as a national media personality to consistently promote the positives of the Shreveport-Bossier City area. He said he was surprised to receive the inaugural LSHOF Ambassador Award.

“I still have a lot of tread left on my tires,” joked the 65-year-old Brando. “Maybe I’m fighting off the fact I just got my Medicare card, but I felt like it wasn’t time yet. My story’s not completely written.”

Angela Turner-Johnson

Arguably the best guard in Louisiana, male or female, during her senior season at now closed Shady Grove High, Turner-Johnson would lead the Lady Techsters to four Final Fours, two national titles and a 143-10 record during her four years in Ruston. 

Now a grandmother living in Dallas, the former Coca-Cola executive said the talent of Tech coach Leon Barmore and the recruiting of coach Sonja Hogg drove the Techsters to success.

“Coach Hogg knew the type players to recruit for their system and I believe coach Barmore is one of the greatest coaches ever,” she said. “He was a hard man, but he knew how to encourage – how to get what was inside of you out.” 

Kent Lowe

While serving as LSU’s senior associate sports communications director since 2000, Lowe has won multiple writing awards and has served the LSWA as treasurer. He annually assists with Shreveport’s Independence Bowl as an announcer. Lowe said it hit him he had made the HOF list Wednesday night when he saw his portrait, painted by Chris Brown, at his hotel.

“He made me look 20 years younger, which I appreciate, but Brando’s was much bigger,” Lowe joked. “I didn’t know I was going to have to pay people so much money to come sit at my table.”

Joan Cronan

A long-time advocate for women’s sports, Cronan received numerous awards for her successful leadership in guiding Lady Vols’ sports from 1983-2012.  James Corbett Award, Homer Rice Award and NCAA President’s Pat Summitt Award are among her honors. She earned two degrees from LSU while also working at Northwestern State.

“All the time I’m asked, ‘is Title IX working?’ I say ‘heck, yeah,’” Cronan said. “Sometimes people want to know if my loyalty is to LSU or Tennessee. I’m a Cajun with orange blood, but my check says Tennessee.”

Charles “Peanut” Tillman

Inductees in the 2021 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame attend a press conference Thursday afternoon Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. Charles Tillman

One of just eight Ragin’ Cajuns to have their jersey retired, Tillman said he probably never should have signed with ULL due to a disappointing recruiting trip. 

“All they had to eat was crawfish, and I don’t eat crawfish, and shrimp etouffee, and I don’t eat shrimp. So, I just ate some corn and French fries,” Tillman said. “Coach told them to ‘get that boy a steak,’ so I ordered that steak and that steak and that steak.”

Tillman picked off 12 passes as a Ragin’ Cajun and had at least three interceptions in nine of his 13 NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears. The NFL named him the 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his work on and off the field.

Ronnie Coleman

Coleman never planned on being a body builder, although he enjoyed working out. He was spotted on the street by a man who coached him to success.

The Bastrop native, who played football for Eddie Robinson from 1983-86, eventually became the “Michael Jordan” of the sport with eight consecutive Mr. Olympia wins from 1998-2005. He was in a Netflix documentary, “Ronnie Coleman: The King,” in 2018. 

“I’m truly overwhelmed by this honor,” he said. 

Mackie Freeze

Freeze got a chuckle recently when someone reminded him he was the oldest inductee into the LSHOF.

“I just said ‘better late than ever,’” he said smiling.

Freeze was 116-23 in Monroe with a state-record 56 consecutive victories and four state titles from 1961 to 1964. He produced 11 players that were drafted or signed pro contracts including LSHOFer Joe Profit.

Kerry Kittles

The 6-6 shooting guard signed with Villanova out of New Orleans and went on to an eight-year NBA career mostly with the New Jersey Nets. He played in 507 career games with 455 starts averaging 14.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

The former Mr. Louisiana Basketball led St. Aug to a 66-5 record and a state title while averaging 22.5 points his senior year.

Robin Fambrough

Active in the LSWA, Fambrough is primarily a prep writer for The Advocate, while also serving as a liaison between the LSWA and the LHSAA. The fourth sportswriter and the first female, she was inducted into the LHSAA Hall of Fame in 2019.

She has spent 31 years at The Advocate.  

Phil Robertson

The former Louisiana Tech quarterback was the only 2020 LSHOC inductee who didn’t attend Thursday’s news conference at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, but he did attend Saturday's induction ceremony.  

An avid hunter, Robertson has spent 25 years producing duck calls and other hunter-related items. He was also part of his family’s reality television show, “Duck Dynasty,” which ran from 2012-17. 

Twitter: @Jimmy@Watson6