While Marshawn Lynch unwrapped candy and played with kids near Oakland Technical High School’s snack bar, his mother Delisa Lynch reflected on the school’s hall of fame ceremony Friday evening.

“It’s amazing … a blessing,” she said. Delisa set track and field records at the North Oakland campus in the early 1980s. Marshawn, who was a star football player, graduated in 2004 and went on to play for UC Berkeley and then the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders. He was honored Jan. 20 with other distinguished alumni before a packed gymnasium. 

“Everyone paints a bad picture of Oakland, but if they could see tonight. … We did this together. It takes a village,” said Delisa.

The nine-member Hall of Fame class was feted with jackets and plaques. The Tech gymnasium, freshly painted in the school’s purple and gold colors with “Welcome to the Doghouse” across one wall and “Ain’t Nothin’ but the Dog in Me” across the other, was buzzing when Oakland boxing legend Andre Ward sat courtside to watch the Tech girl’s basketball game before the ceremony.

Lynch, the Super Bowl champion and international icon, was inducted into the hall of fame with other legendary athletes the school has fostered, including: 

  • Dr. Alexis Gray-Lawson, who teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Devanei Hampton for two state basketball titles at Tech and then NCAA Tournament runs together at Cal
  • Rickey Henderson, the Baseball Hall of Famer and all-time Major League Baseball runs scored and stolen bases leader
  • Josh Johnson, the 49ers quarterback who took a break from NFL playoff duties (Tech’s crowd erupted when the quarterback’s matchup with the Cowboys was announced)
  • Bothers Josh Lowery and Terrell Lowery, MLB draft picks (Terrell homered for the San Francisco Giants) and college basketball stars 
  • Leon Powe, who led Tech to two state title games before he became a star at Cal and won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics
  • Northern Shavers, a basketball star drafted by the San Antonio Spurs.

“There was greatness in the hallways,” is how former baseball standout Chris McClarty recalls Tech, from 2001-05, when Powe rivaled LeBron James in the prep basketball rankings, Lynch unveiled his “Beastmode” running style and Gray-Lawson and Hampton formed one of the nation’s most dynamic basketball duos. “Seeing that gives you confidence,” McClarty said.

Quentin Thomas, honored with McClarty into the school’s Hall of Distinction, credits Powe with getting him a scholarship offer to play basketball for powerhouse North Carolina.

“It is special what we were able to accomplish in four years,” said Thomas, who entered Tech in 2000 with a wave of athletic talent across all sports. “To come back in 2023 and see it have an impact on the community and the city, I’m just grateful to be a part of that.”

Roderick Williams recalls playing outfield at Bushrod Park – avoiding potholes while tracking down fly balls with Henderson, who would become the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

“He was like Bo Jackson before Bo Jackson,” said Williams, who graduated in 1976.

Two coaches who combined for nearly a century of service at Tech were named into the Hall of Honor. Rosemary Whisenton, mother to Johnson and grandmother to freshman girls basketball star Jhai, was swarmed by her cheer team. Ashlee Sherman, who has coached wrestling in Oakland for more than 50 years and is a member of the California Wrestling Hall of Fame, saluted decades of familiar faces he toughened up in Tech’s second floor wrestling room.  

Seven athletes were inducted into the Hall of Distinction: 

  • Michael Denard 
  • Chris McClarty 
  • Quentin Thomas 
  • Harold Gipson
  • Armando Surratt 
  • Virdell Larkins 
  • Wolfe Perry 

And seven athletes and coaches were inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor

  • Pico Wilburn 
  • Rosemary Whisenton 
  • Delton Edwards 
  • Ronnie Turner
  • Ashlee Sherman 
  • Hodari McGavock 
  • Tim Brown

In attendance were Oakland councilmember Dan Kalb, Deputy Mayor Dr. Kimberly Mayfield and school board president Mike Hutchinson and school board director Sam Davis. Courtside VIP tickets were sold to raise money for the Oakland Tech Parent Teacher Student Association.

The ceremony followed the Tech girls basketball team’s game against Oakland High. Staying true to their goal of capturing their third consecutive state championship this year, Tech gave a dominating performance, winning easily. Hampton, who now coaches AAU basketball, sees similarities to her Tech teams.

Sayja Sumler, who made game-clinching free throws in the 2005 title game after Hampton and Gray-Lawson fouled out, said she’s proud of Hampton’s accomplishments and recognition as a member of the Tech the Hall of Fame.

Later in the evening, after the ceremony, the Tech boys basketball team took the court. Chants of “OOO-TTT!!!” bounced off the freshly painted purple-and-gold walls as the thriller of a game that Tech won in overtime. When Stanford commit Omar Staples hit a clutch basket for the home team, Marshawn Lynch danced on the court with former classmates and new hall of fame inductees. With fans on their feet and roaring, Oakland High star Money Williams calmly sank two free throws to tie the score at the end of regulation. 

“Tech is home,” Thomas said, “I enjoy being able to come back after so many years, see a packed house and everyone supporting not only the men’s (basketball) team but the women’s team. The women have a great program, as they’ve always had. They were better than us when we were in school, with Devanei and Alexis. … Last night with the alumni game. It’s special.”

Nick Lozito is a Sportswriter and designer whose work has appeared in The Oaklandside, Berkeleyside, KQED, San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications. He is a graduate of Oakland Technical High School and Sacramento State University.

Amir Aziz is a photographer and videographer from Oakland, California. Using photography as his primary medium, Amir documents life and times in his community and the rapid changes in his environment. He's covered music events and social justice movements in the U.S. and abroad for local and international publications. Before shelter-in-place, he traveled to over 10 countries producing multimedia projects juxtaposing the experiences of locals elsewhere to those in his hometown of Oakland. Amir hopes to continue to bridge the gap between African diaspora communities and oppressed groups in the world through multimedia storytelling.