Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and NBA All-Star Allen Iverson has returned home to his high school alma mater where a gymnasium has been renamed in his honor.
Iverson cut the ribbon at Bethel High School in Hampton unveiling the “Allen Iverson Gymnasium” Tuesday.
Iverson was emotional as educators and coaches from his past spoke highly of him and said he hopes the dedication inspires those in the community and students at Bethel High to dream bigger.
“I just hope for my little homies and home-girls here that you all can do it on a bigger platform, that you can do it better than me,” he said. “Don’t be like Allen Iverson, be better than Allen Iverson.”
Ralph Saunders, executive principal at Bethel High, Hampton City School Superintendent Jeffery Smith, and Mayor Donnie Tuck were among the ceremony’s distinguished guests.
“To this community, you’ve been making a statement for so many years…there’s nothing that can stop you if your heart and your mind are together,” Tuck said.
Affectionately known to Hampton residents as “Bubba Chuck,” Iverson is best known to the world for the 10 years he played on the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.
After graduating from Bethel High School, he went on to Georgetown University and was ultimately selected by the Sixers as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft.
Ann Cherry, Hampton City School Board chairwoman, said she remembered Iverson as the athletic kid who’d fill the Hampton Coliseum for a high school basketball game, then grew to make quiet contributions to athletic programs at Hampton City schools over 15 years — never forgetting where he came from.
“Allen Iverson needs no introduction in this community because he has always been invested in this community,” she said. “The naming of this gym is significant but more significant is the fact that he gave generously to a school that he did not forget and today this school is not forgetting him.”