Ramon Sessions knew the emotions would hit him at some point Tuesday night as he returned to his old high school gymnasium. They always do on occasions like this, and sure enough he started choking up as he spoke to the crowd about his former coach Buddy Rogers and his appreciation for the community and school that helped start him on his path.
That path has now taken the former Myrtle Beach High School standout through a seven-year NBA career and stints with five franchises, but home has never changed.
And so as the Myrtle Beach City Council honored Sessions with a key to the city and a banner that now hangs inside the Seahawks gym next to the one for Rogers, his former varsity coach, the ever humble and low-key Charlotte Bobcats guard couldnt make it through his speech at halfcourt without pausing to collect himself and gather his words.
Ill tell you guys one thing, Sessions had said before the emotions took over. The fame and all this and that is good, but this right here is really where its at when you can come back to your community and get honored like this.
As Sessions paused to wipe his face, the crowd that took up most of the available seating in the bleachers filled the void with a loud ovation for the former Seahawk great.
After graduating from Myrtle Beach High School in 2004, Sessions played three seasons at Nevada before being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. Hes bounced around from the Bucks to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Lakers and now to the Charlotte Bobcats, where hes averaging 10.7 points and 3.1 assists off the bench this season.
But City Councilman Wayne Gray, who is Rogers nephew and who presented the key to the city plaque to Sessions at midcourt between the Myrtle Beach High girls and boys basketball games Tuesday night, said the honor was as much for what Sessions has done off the court.
Its really the kind of person he is, and he does it every day, every week, every year, which is hopefully the message that these folks [take from tonight], Gray said.
He referenced the annual summer basketball camp Sessions puts on in his hometown, free to kids, the golf tournament that raises money for the Buddy Rogers memorial scholarship fund and the sweatsuits and shoes provided to the middle school and high school teams by Reebok, Sessions sponsor.
You hope that what that instills in these kids is theres very few Ramon Sessions in the NBA, Gray said sitting in the bleachers after the ceremony. Theres [few] that make it to the collegiate level. Theres a lot of Ramon Sessions that play high school basketball, but you can use this sport or any sport to become the kind of person that he is. I think thats the message. He doesnt preach it to you. He does it, he is it. I think thats the most fitting and incredible thing about tonight is just honoring him [as a] person.
Playing for the Bobcats this season has afforded Sessions more opportunities to return to Myrtle Beach, for events like his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway and for nights like this.
I dont think people understand how special it really is, to be out of high school now 10 years, and people still remember me just like it was yesterday, Sessions said off to the side of the court after the ceremony. Thats the legacy I want to leave. Its one of those things that, being in the NBA is great a dream come true but if you cant put your foot down where you grew up at theres nowhere like home. Its just a blessing for me to be here.
Before the city council made its presentation, the arena went dark and a replay of Sessions dunk over LeBron James from the Bobcats game Saturday against the Miami Heat was showed several times on a projection screen at the end of the gym. The crowd cheered again and again.
Sessions would say afterward that he wasnt expecting that, but then again, that play has been all the buzz the last few days.
Oh man, he said. I thought it was the Super Bowl game or something, on TNT or prime time or something. It was just crazy how it blew up all over the place.
Sessions said its a moment hell forever cherish and tell his kids about decades from now. The same too could be said for his NBA career as a whole.
Hes scored 4,920 career points, including a personal-best 14.4 per game last season in his first year with Charlotte.
And with Bobcats starting guard and leading scorer Kemba Walker sidelined up to two weeks with a sprained ankle, Sessions has moved into the starting lineup again for the time being. He answered with 23 points Monday against Toronto before jaunting to Myrtle Beach for the ceremony Tuesday.
We lost a leader in Kemba. We need him back sooner than later, but guys have to step up including myself and just take advantage of it, Sessions said. Its not my first or second year; its my seventh year in a league. I know what it takes to be a starter in the league because Ive been around for a while, so Im just going to do what I normally do.
As part of his speech to the crowd in appreciation for the honor Tuesday night, Sessions said he doesnt buy into the notion that he built this gym. He spoke of the players who came before him at Myrtle Beach, whom he learned from while getting his start.
And since then, well, hes just been living out a dream.
My vision was to be in the NBA, hed say afterward. Did I really think that was going to come true? I did. Did many people think that? I dont think so. A lot of people dont make it to that next level. I just continue to work hard and it wasnt easy at all.
Im just blessed to be here standing seven years later saying I played in the NBA for seven years and able to do this type of stuff.
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