Before Michael Jordan was making Bryon Russell fall with a killer crossover and draining the go ahead jumper to win his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a skinny, determined athlete dominating the competition at Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Before Adrian Peterson was trucking opposing defenses and racking up 2,097 yards in a single season for the Minnesota Vikings he was shining bright under the Friday night lights at Palestine High (Palestine, Texas), averaging 12 yards a carry and scoring 32 touchdowns.
Before any athlete can become legendary they have to lay their foundation in the high school ranks.
Each week I’ll chat with a high-profile athlete’s former coach, mentor, family member, etc., and reminisce about their high school playing days; everything from the greatest moment to the wackiest story.
Today we talk with NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson’s AAU coach at BWSL (Hampton, Va.) Boo Williams.
Iverson was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sept. 9.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Allen on the court in high school?
Boo Williams: Definitely when we were down in Winston Salem, N.C., at the national tournament and he scored 30 points three times in a row. So I tell that story and everybody’s always like, “Oh 30 three times? That’s good.” Then I tell them that what I mean is that he scored 30 points three times by halftime. The show he put on down there; I’ve never seen anything like it. He scored 63 points in one game too. It was crazy. I’ve had a lot of great players, but I’ve never had a kid that had a summer like he had. He destroyed people that summer.
JJ: When did you know he’d be, not only a pro, but a legendary pro?
BW: After that Winston Salem tournament. That was unbelievable. I mean it’s something that people still talk about to this day. Pound for pound Allen’s the best basketball player that’s ever played since I’ve been around the game in the last 40 years. I’m telling you!
JJ: What was Allen’s mentality on and off the court?
BW: On the court he wanted to be the best. I mean he really put everything in to that and he really thought that he was the best player on the court no matter who he was playing against. Off the court… well, it’s like I told Coach (John) Thompson, he’s gonna be great for two hours on the court, but the other 22 hours could be interesting.
JJ: Give me your best memory of Allen off the court?
BW: One time we were eating lunch after one of our games; me and a couple of the other coaches and Allen says to us, “I think I can beat Mike.” So we were all saying we thought that he probably could, but it would be a good game. We were agreeing with him thinking that he was talking about one of the older players we had Mike Evans. Then he looked at all of us and said, “Nah, I’m talking about Michael Jordan!” We were all like, “Jordan!” It’s funny when he had that famous crossover on Michael Jordan I think he was playing his whole life for that moment.
JJ: If Allen had no off-court issues obviously he would’ve had his pick of the litter when it came to colleges. Where do you think he would’ve gone?
BW: That would’ve been interesting! It was tough because of his situation though. Only a few people could’ve coached him with all he had going on. You know if he didn’t have any of the trouble he might’ve played football. People forget he was the top high school football quarterback.
JJ: Do you think he was a better basketball player or football player?
BW: Well, I’m a little biased, but I think he was a better basketball player. But there are a lot of people that think he’s a better football player. Then, and you probably don’t know this, there are a lot of people who think he’s a better artist than he is a football or basketball player. Really. He can’t just draw he’s a great artist. To be honest, he could’ve never played a day of football or basketball and he would’ve made it as an artist. He’s that good.
JJ: Of course he retired recently, but hey, so did Brett Favre. Think he’ll bring the killer crossover back to the NBA?
BW: No, I can’t see that. But I’ll tell you what, if he got in shape, with what I see out there now I think he could still contribute. I think he’d be a good backup point guard for a team. I don’t know if he could do what he was doing when he was in his prime, but he’d be a pretty good backup; even today.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY