MOSS POINT, Miss — It might be harder for Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker to stay in touch with everyone from his hometown but he’s still deeply connected to his community in Moss Point, Mississippi.
“I just had my court renovation down in Moss Point so I try to stay in touch the most I can,” Booker said. “[I] try to be an inspiration for those kids that walk the same halls as me or the same kids on the Gulf Coast that thought the NBA was out of sight and now feel, living through me, that it’s possible.”
Booker helped bring two refurbished basketball courts to the small Mississippi town in August 2021, just weeks after playing in the NBA Finals and the Tokyo Olympics where he won a Gold medal with Team USA.
The Moss Point community came together to help paint one of the courts on Elder and Payne Streets and Booker was celebrated by his former teachers and current students at his alma mater, Moss Point High School.
“Now that we have this court it’s amazing,” Moss Point High School senior Breland Curry said. “He led the way. For me, knowing about his 5 a.m. workouts and things like that, the work that he put in, all the stories that I’ve heard about him, it gives me the motivation to get up and put in the work for my sport.”
“Every time he comes home he makes us feel special. Nothing else matters,” Searcy Kay said. “His fame, all those things don’t matter. What matters is he’s home and he shares.”
Kay was the assistant principal at Moss Point High School during the time Booker attended. She lovingly refers to him as her “baby boy” and describes a teenage Booker as a polite student who remains humble today.
“He does remember where he’s from and I think that’s so important for everybody to see that,” Moss Point English teacher Carol Adkins said. Adkins coached the Moss Point Tigers volleyball team during Booker’s years on the basketball team and she remembers seeing him practice and work on his craft with his father, Melvin, in the gym every day.
“What I share with my students today is the fact that he had such drive and determination. Not just in the classroom but on the court,” Adkins said.
Melvin Booker also attended Moss Point High School. His high school jersey and a photo from his time with the Houston Rockets hang in the gym today. Devin was known as “DB2” – a nod to his jersey number – at the high school, where a banner celebrating his McDonald’s All American selection also hangs in the gym today. Booker moved from Grand Rapids to Moss Point after his freshman year of high school to live and train with his father who played professionally in the NBA and overseas.
Booker has described the move as one of the biggest and most difficult decisions he’s made in his life but, ultimately, he was able to thrive at a school with less than 700 students.
“This was serious business, when he played, it was a big deal!” Kay said. “He did bring so much joy and excitement to our community and we needed it. Everybody would come out and support… It was awesome.”
“Unforgettable,” Moss Point High School teacher Myrtle Bridges said of the games during Booker’s time playing at the school. “I mean, noise? The level? Very high.”
Booker’s impact on Moss Point can still be felt and seen throughout the town – from the school’s campus to the public parks. Although his alma mater’s colors are navy, grey and white, you will see plenty of people like his former teachers wearing purple and orange around town these days.
“Any place that I’ve crossed in my path I want to be an inspiration for the next generation,” Booker said.
Now the 25-year-old is leaving his legacy and giving hope to the people who call Moss Point home and there are plans to have his jersey retired at his alma mater.
“It’s exciting to watch him play. He’s a role model for me so he inspires me to do well on the court as well,” Moss Point sophomore girls basketball player Ziara Cato said. “He represents Moss Point well. We love him.”
“I want to just thank him for doing everything he did for this city,” Curry said. “He’s from the hometown so wherever he goes, I’m reppin’. No matter what team he’s on, I’m reppin’ it.”
The people of Moss Point are extremely proud of Booker and how he made his NBA dreams a reality after spending his formative years on the Gulf Coast. The NBA superstar hasn’t forgotten his roots and that’s what thrills his former teachers the most.
“Don’t let nothin’ change you,” Bridges said while holding a framed picture of herself and Booker from his National Signing Day event in 2013. “Stay the way that you are.”
“The thing that I would say to him is ‘thank you’ for all that you’ve done,” Adkins added. “Continue to strive and show people what you are and who you are and where you come from.”
“Thank you for continuing to be who I thought you were -- even today,” Kay said while fighting back tears. “I’m proud of him.”
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