Mahan and Murray Exchange Fun-Filled Memories at Heroes & Legends Ceremony

By: Justin Felisko

LAS VEGAS – For 25 years, Larry Mahan could enjoy walking past every mirror, looking at himself and channeling his inner Muhammad Ali.

“I am the greatest,” Mahan would say.

Mahan was not looking for anyone’s sympathy on Tuesday night at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa as he received the Ty Murray Top Hand Award, but he sure enjoyed giving his prodigy – Ty Murray – a hard time about breaking his records.

In its second year, the Ty Murray Top Hand Award connects the PBR to its historical roots in rodeo and is given to cowboys who have made significant and lasting contributions to enhance the sport of rodeo and its heritage.

“I said the young man has finally found compassion,” Mahan joked. “He must have felt guilty for the past how many years for breaking my record. I didn’t bring a Kleenex or anything, but it hurt.”

Mahan competed as a saddle bronc rider, bareback rider and bull rider during his rodeo career. He successfully transitioned from event to event to the tune of six all-around World Championships and two bull riding World Championships in the PRCA.

He was a rodeo legend.

He was an inspiration to hundreds of aspiring cowboys all over the world.

One of those kids was none other than Murray.

“Larry Mahan epitomizes everything this award is about,” Murray said. “Larry was not only a legendary cowboy in all three roughstock events, but another level. I started following him when I was big enough to look at magazines when I was a little kid. I studied and looked at every single thing that he did. I thought I never had seen a guy that was that athletic and that tough. And, had that much guts.”

Murray was 8 years old when he wrote for a school assignment that he wanted to break Mahan’s record of six all-around World Championships.

The teenager met Mahan for the first time five years later.

Murray flew out to Colorado to spend time with his idol, and he recalled being put through one of his first Mahan tests.

Mahan was piloting his Cessna plane and brought Murray on board as a co-pilot. Murray could barely see over the dashboard when Mahan began to give him a quick tutorial on how to fly the plane.

The left pedal would steer the plane left, the right pedal would take them to the right. Mahan explained some of the levers and other things of note.

Then it was time for Murray to take over.

“He says, ‘I am going to take a little nap, and you keep it level with the horizon,’” Murray recalled. “Now that I know how Larry is, it was just my very first test, which he gave me many. I just white-knuckled it and tried to peek over the dash and keep it as level as I could. He faked like he had napped for 15 minutes. Shook it off and we went on (our way).”

Murray won his seventh all-around championship in 1998.

“This is a guy that I am very thankful for,” Murray said. “I know he has impacted my life greatly. He has impacted my career greatly. He has impacted how I tried to conduct myself as a World Champion and as a professional rodeo cowboy. I also think he has impacted the sport as much as anybody has.”

Murray continuously referred to Mahan as a pioneer, and someone everyone can learn from.

“Not only is he one of the greatest cowboys that has ever drawn a breath of air, and one of the toughest and best, but I really think he is a pioneer that is deserving of this award,” Murray added.

Mahan joked during his induction speech that he could have put a stop to this 13-year-old’s goals and dreams if he would have known about Murray’s master plan.

“He withheld that information from me when I had him up at my place when he was 13,” Mahan said. “He didn’t tell me that. I could have hurt him. I still could be the all-around guy.”

The admiration Mahan has for Murray was on full display Tuesday night on stage at the Grand Ballroom. For as much as he was speaking to the crowd, Mahan was talking directly with Murray.

Mahan brought his charismatic and fun-loving personality to life on the main stage just as he did during his rodeo career.

He even gave Murray a hard time for making him share the stage with Phil Lyne.

Lyne won all-around championships in 1971 and 1972 before Mahan won it again in 1973. Their intense back-and-forth battles for rodeo supremacy was featured in the Academy Award winning documentary, “The Great American Cowboy.”

“I realized he tarred and feathered me tonight,” Mahan said. “He breaks my record and then he brings another man into the scene that kept me from winning two more all-arounds, Phil Lyne. If I won two more, Ty would still be out there trying to get my record. What a lucky lad.”

All joking aside, Mahan was truly grateful to receive the Ty Murray Top Hand Award on Tuesday night.

“It is an honor to be here and I am humbled by the thought of winning the Ty Murray Award,” Mahan said.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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