In the first 24 years of the arena’s existence, Eastern Michigan played their home games at the Convocation Center. For the next 24 years, it’ll take on the moniker of the George Gervin GameAbove Center, a change made official on Saturday afternoon during Eastern Michigan men’s basketball’s game against FIU.
The name change was just one of the highlights from a day of celebration for the Eastern Michigan community as they celebrated “George Gervin Day”.
The name change was announced during a surprise halftime announcement which included EMU football great Charlie Batch speaking to the crowd before Gervin’s turn to speak. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and former EMU head coach Rob Murphy were also in attendance.
Gervin spoke glowingly about his time at EMU, mentioning former teammates including Dr. Robert Sims, a fellow GameAbove member and the first black student-athlete on the Eastern Michigan Basketball team. Gervin also mentioned that he met his wife during his first day on the Ypsilanti campus.
As part of the celebration, GameAbove sponsored giveaways of special cups, rally towels, George Gervin Iceman t-shirts, bobbleheads of Gervin’s likeness, and food vouchers to each fan for free $7 combos. Select students received $75 dollars for their attendance while a select few won scholarships. Entering the arena featured an ice-sculpture for the Iceman, and numerous photo stations. Gervin himself posed for pictures and signed autographs.
WHAT. A. DAY.— Eastern Michigan Athletics (@EMUAthletics) December 11, 2021
2⃣ halves of @EMU_MBB + 4⃣ OT periods = 2⃣4⃣, George Gervin's retired number!
This was just one of many more wins inside the newly named "George Gervin GameAbove Center." ️#EMUEagles pic.twitter.com/YZDs36e51E
Gervin, a Detroit native, started his collegiate career at Long Beach State before transferring back to the area. While at Eastern Michigan from 1970-1972, Gervin led EMU to the 1972 College Division Final Four, and had his number 24 retired in 1996. He played ten NBA seasons, with nine All-Star nominations and six all-NBA nods. Gervin also finished as the NBA’s scoring champion four times. His career numbers were enough to earn him spots in the Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as on the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list and the 75th Anniversary Team.
The second name on the arena is for GameAbove, a group of largely of EMU alums who donate to the university for various campus lifestyle improvements. Members of GameAbove include Charlie Batch, Earl Boykins, Anthony Tomey, TJ Lang, Jack Brusewitz, Gervin and others.
In addition to the renaming, GameAbove has pledged several donations to improve the E-Club Hall of Fame, the visitor experience, and well as the training facilities.
GameAbove has previously donated $15,000,000 to the renovation of the College of Engineering and Technology; $2,000,000 to the Faculty First and Students Matter initiative; $500,000 to the Ozone House; $8,000,000 to the golf facility; $1,000,000 to the student-athlete performance center and a $2,000,000 donation to 2020 graduates who lost their graduation ceremony due to the COVID pandemic.
Saturday’s festivities were also recorded as part of an upcoming documentary on Gervin.
Not to be lost in all the ceremony, was a big victory for the current Eastern Michigan basketball team. In front of a rare crowd of 3,991 which reached into the arena’s second level, the Eagles played the longest game in program history needing four overtimes to knock off the 8-1 Florida International Panthers out of Conference USA, 92-88.
Noah Farrakhan had a career-high 27 points while Monty Scotty and Mo Njie added double-doubles. Brice McBride scored 15 points off the bench and Nate Scott threw down a Sportscenter worthy dunk in the victory.
The Eagles improved to 5-5 on the season and will get a much-needed break for final exams, returning December 20th to play at Valpariso.