Known for his ice cold demeanor on and off the court, Eastern Michigan’s most famous basketball alumni from Detroit, George “The Iceman” Gervin returned to Ypsilanti to see his No. 24 retired to the rafters Friday night.
Gervin played at EMU over 40 years ago dominating the college game and taking the Hurons (the team’s mascot when he played) to the NCAA Final Four in the 1971-72 season. The Iceman still holds the single season scoring record for EMU, averaging 29.5 points per game.
Though Gervin was an incredible shooter and scorer, his signature move shooting was the finger roll to the basket. Gervin was able to hit a finger roll from up to 15 feet away from the basket by arching over defenders.
“Oh, of course I still got the finger roll.” Gervin said jokingly about his signature move. “You never lose a shot like that.”
The Iceman was one of the most elite shooting guards to ever play professional basketball, becoming a three time ABA all-star, nine time NBA all-star, and four time scoring champion.
Standing an impressive 6-foot-7, for a guard, Gervin dominated in both the ABA and NBA while playing the majority of his career for the San Antonio Spurs and earning his way into the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Gervin lives in San Antonio and has dedicated his life to education and community service. Gervin said the biggest difference then when he was playing at EMU--is his new appreciation for education.
“When I was younger and a player I didn’t realize how important school was.” Gervin said. “I had to come back here years later to get my degree and now I am officially Dr. Iceman.”
The George Gervin Youth Center opened in 1991 to help students get an education and serves to impact the lives of troubled young people and their families. EMU President Susan Martin said it was an honor to have a legend return.
“We had him as our commencement speaker and he has dedicated his life to education.” Martin said. “He’s one of the greatest NBA players of all time, top 50, met his wife at Eastern and fell in love at Eastern so what’s not to love about that.”
The Iceman watched his alumni win Friday night 60-52 and was proud to be there.
“Coming here from I-94, I could see the big billboard with Iceman Classic on it," Gervin said. "My kids all rushed inside the car with their phones trying to take a picture. I told them they would see it a couple times, (laughing) but it felt really good and it’s great to be back here and see all the change in Ypsilanti.”
Gervin is what every EMU athlete should aspire to be, not just with his play on the court but with his career off the hardwood. The only thing that’s cooler than being cool is being the Iceman.