The Norfolk Scope is one of the most unique looking venues in American sports. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Tidewater Virginia’s grandest indoor venue for live events.
The Scope opened in November 1971, three years after construction began on the 11,000-seat venue and accompanying 2,500-seat concert space known as Chrysler Hall. Renowned Italian architect Pier Liugi, best known for the modernist buildings he created for the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, brought his unique design sensibilities to the Scope.
The arena was named for the wide range of human endeavors its boosters planned to bring to the venue. The Scope has proven to be the magnet for fantastic live events that its founders had envisioned—everything from professional sports to college games to professional wrestling to rock concerts and religious revivals.
It has been a particularly esteemed venue for big time college basketball. Here are 10 of the greatest moments in the basketball history of the Norfolk Scope:
10. Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament, 1979-1985, 1988-1990:
The Scope served as the home of the CIAA’s hotly contested conference basketball tournament for much of the 80s. Featuring teams primarily from the Mid-Atlantic, the CIAA is an NCAA Division II conference, which consists of historically black colleges. The most noteworthy NBA player to come through the CIAA tournament during this period was Virginia Union’s Charles Oakley, who was tournament co-MVP in 1985.
9. Norfolk State 122, Old Dominion 119 (OT), December 9, 1971:
Until Old Dominion jumped to Division I in 1977, the ODU-Norfolk State men’s basketball rivalry was one of the hottest tickets in Division II. These perennial powers battled for regional dominance for years, frequently spoiling one another’s shot at a national title in the 1960s and early 1970s. Quite fittingly, the first college basketball game at the Scope was a 122-119 overtime barnburner between the ancient Tidewater rivals played before a packed house. Norfolk State had the last laugh that afternoon but, four years later, Sonny Allen’s ODU club earned a degree of immortality for their basketball program, winning a Division II national title.
8. Old Dominion Lady Monarchs Women’s Basketball, 1980-Present:
The Lady Monarchs are one of women’s college basketball’s most iconic programs: 25 NCAA Tournament appearances, three Final Fours, and a national championship in 1985. They boast a 9-4 record in their 13 appearances at the Scope.
7. Old Dominion Wins ECAC South Men’s Basketball Tournament, March 4-6, 1982:
The Monarchs men’s basketball team made the Scope their big game home between 1971 and 2002. All told, ODU compiled a 208-87 record at the Scope. Three of their most exciting wins at the Scope came on the weekend of March 4-6, 1982, when the Paul Webb-coached Monarchs squad earned its second-ever bid to the Division I NCAA Tournament by defeating George Mason, Richmond and James Madison on successive days.
6. Villanova 71, Old Dominion 68, March 9, 1977:
In their first season in Division I, ECAC South champions Old Dominion hosted its first ever National Invitation Tournament (NIT) game. The Monarchs dropped a back-and-forth battle with Rollie Massimino’s Villanova Wildcats.
5. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Men’s Basketball Tournament, 1991-1993, 2013-Present:
Every March, the 11-member MEAC, a Division I conference which consists of historically black colleges and universities, holds its men’s basketball tournament at the Scope. In recent years, the tourney has been dominated by North Carolina Central and Hampton, who combined to win six straight titles from 2014-2019.
4. Julius Erving Debuts for the Virginia Squires (American Basketball Association), 1971-1972:
Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, spent the first two years of his professional career (1971-1973) wowing crowds at the Scope. Erving was the signature player for the Virginia Squires (1970-1976) of the American Basketball Association (ABA), arguably the most exciting and most mythologized league in sports history. Erving brought his unprecedented above-the-rim action to the Tidewater, making the Scope home to some of the most ferocious slam dunks in basketball history. In 1972, Erving, the rookie sensation, led the Squires to the Eastern Division Finals, averaging more than 30 points and 20 rebounds per game. The Squires swept he Miami Floridians in the semifinals before losing a dramatic seven-game series to the New York Nets.
3. Soviet Union 76, Old Dominion 66, December 13, 1979 (Women’s Basketball):
More than 10,000 fans packed the Scope, the largest crowd in ODU history to see a women’s basketball game, to see the Lady Monarchs take on the Soviet National Women’s Basketball Team, a team that had not lost in 21 years. Led by the legendary Nancy Lieberman, the Lady Monarchs hung tough against the Soviets, holding a 34-32 advantage at the half. The 76-66 final score was a remarkable showing against the Soviets, especially when one considers that their 7-foot-2-inch center Ulyana Semenyova stood a foot taller than anyone on the ODU roster.
2. Old Dominion 76 Soviet Union 74 (OT), November 19, 1979:
In a precursor to the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team’s February 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” ODU’s men’s basketball team overcame an 11-point deficit with less than 10 minutes remaining to defeat the Soviet national team 76-74 in overtime.
1. ABA All-Star Game, January 30, 1974:
The ABA put on one heck of a show with its red, white and blue ball at the Scope in January 1974. Basketball legends such as George McGinnis, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, George Gervin and Julius Erving dazzled the 10,000-plus fans in attendance that evening. The East team brought home a 128-112 victory. Kentucky Colonels 7-foot-4-inch center Artis Gilmore, who played for the East, earned MVP honors.
Clayton Trutor holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Boston College and teaches at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. He is the author of Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta—and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports. He’d love to hear from you on Twitter: @ClaytonTrutor.