Summer 2024

Allan Houston to receive Athletes in Action's Keys to Life Award at men's Final Four

Longtime New York Knick Allan Houston is adding to his impressive list of awards and accolades at the men’s Final Four in New Orleans this weekend.

Houston will receive the Athletes in Action Coach Wooden Keys to Life Award, given to someone who exemplifies character, leadership and faith. The annual recognition is in honor of legendary coach John Wooden.

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“When you receive an award for just leadership, I just go back to the values my parents gave me, my in-laws gave my wife — just that perspective of where your calling comes from,” Houston said about the recognition in an episode of the Sports Spectrum Podcast released Thursday.

This is the 25th year of the event, which was formerly known as the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast. Recent winners of the award include Billy and Mary Kennedy, John Beilein and Rick Barnes.

Houston’s ties to Wooden go back to his father, Wade, who served on the staff of former Wooden assistant Denny Crum at the University of Louisville. Allan also met Wooden when he participated in the 1989 McDonald’s All-American Game.

Houston went on to star at the University of Tennessee (where his father had become the head coach), averaging more than 20 points per game all four of his seasons in Knoxville before the Detroit Pistons took him with the 11th overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. He spent three years in Detroit and signed with the Knicks as a free agent prior to the 1996-97 season.

In a three-year stretch from 1998-2001, Houston made two All-Star teams, won an Olympic gold medal and helped the Knicks become the first No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals in 1999. He retired at the end of the 2004-05 season largely because of injuries he battled in his final two years.

A father of seven children who has served in a variety of roles in the Knicks’ front office, Houston is grateful for the opportunity to be recognized and celebrate Wooden’s legacy before the Final Four tips off.

“You just think about your life after COVID and everything that’s going on, you just really appreciate what God has brought you,” he said on the podcast.

Houston is also actively involved in running the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, which supports community service efforts. The foundation is responsible for running The FISSL Project, a leadership training and mental wellness program built upon five fundamental principles: faith, integrity, sacrifice, leadership and legacy.

Through FISSL, Houston aims to give kids and young adults the resources and knowledge they need to make a positive difference throughout their lives.

“It’s all about internalizing,” he said on the podcast, “making those values intentional so they become part of your character so that you can maximize your impact. … How are you defining winning in your life and maximizing the impact you have?”

Ultimately, Houston hopes FISSL values lead those involved in the program to develop a relationship with God and make Him the center of their lives.

“We can talk about leadership, we can talk about mentoring, but it is discipleship,” Houston said on the podcast. “It’s helping people understand God’s purpose for their life. It’s helping them open up that playbook — the Word of God.”

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