For any of you younger set who just can’t grasp what you’ve been told regarding David Thompson and his influence on the game of basketball, the news that Michael Jordan has chosen Thompson to present him at his Hall of Fame induction should help bring you a long a bit.
As usual, Caulton Tudor shows that he has the deepest, most natural command of the Atlantic Coast Conference landscape of anyone in the current media. (Link)
ACC basketball always has been nothing if not ironic.
At the very dawn of things, Lennie Rosenbluth was scheduled to play for N.C. State but didn’t hit it off with Everett Case and instead signed on with Frank McGuire at North Carolina.
David Thompson, as a kid in the Shelby area, idolized Carolina’s Charles Scott. But when the time came to sign a scholarship, Thompson opted for the Wolfpack.
As Thompson, in 1973-74, led State to the league’s first NCAA title since Rosenbluth and the Tar Heels in 1956-57, Michael Jordan was growing up in Wilmington patterning his game after that of Thompson.
Jordan drove straight past Raleigh to attend Carolina, where he hit the winning shot in the ACC’s next national title win — Carolina over Georgetown in 1981-82.
In the seemingly endless circle that marks college basketball in this state, it comes as no shock that Jordan has picked Thompson as a Hall of Fame inductor at this weekend’s ceremonies in Springfield, Mass.
Thompson was surprised, however. His reaction, upon getting the call, was “Wow!” according to news reports.
To many of those who were fortunate enough to see both play at the college level, Thompson still rates as the No. 1 player in ACC history. During an era of freshman ineligibility, his accomplishments over a three-year varsity career were staggering.
Thompson, with his spectacular leaping and shooting abilities, also emerged just as the regional television game was exploding in popularity.
Jordan, upon arriving at Chapel Hill in 1981, freely admitted to having been a State fan. “Any time David Thompson was on television, I was glued to that screen,” Jordan said.
It was the same way Thompson followed Scott’s three-year career as the first ACC African-American player with star status at Carolina in the late 1960s.
“I always pretended to be Charlie Scott when I was out practicing by myself,” Thompson said. “If he made a shot, I wanted to make it the same way.”
Those three players, as did Rosenbluth earlier, turned young players into a steady wave of talent that still reaps big dividends for the league that was lucky to land them.
Yahoo Sports has a nice national feature and interview with DT that can be seen by clicking here.
“Even when I go out to speak, that’s how they introduce me, ‘Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan,’ ” Thompson said. “Charles Barkley once said, ‘[Thompson] took the game to the air. … He got people out of their seats.’ I saw a lot of my game in Michael Jordan’s game.”
Thompson first began to hear about Jordan when Jordan was playing at Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C. He knew Jordan was not only considering North Carolina, but N.C. State, too, in large part because Thompson played there. The Wolfpack, however, never asked Thompson to help recruit Jordan, who went to help lead the Tar Heels to the NCAA title as a freshman in 1982. The Wolfpack won the national championship a year later.
“We would have had a couple more championship banners up there if he came,” Thompson said.
“The kids treated him like he was the Beatles or Michael Jackson,” Thompson said. “Little girls would shake. He was really good with the kids. They didn’t really know who I was, but once he told them I was an inspiration for him they would look at me in a different light. They wanted my autograph. One kid said, ‘You must have been really good if Michael Jordan said that about you.’ ”
Thompson won’t have to give a lengthy speech for Jordan; those days are over for the Hall, replaced by video tributes. But NBA Entertainment recently interviewed Thompson for an hour for Jordan’s introduction, and Thompson will attend all the ceremonies in which Jordan is honored, and stand with him during his induction speech.
Thompson is still overwhelmed Jordan picked him to help celebrate his greatest honor. Over Smith, Jackson, Barkley and everyone else.
“I’ve been smiling ever since,” Thompson said. “I’ve been telling people and they’ve been congratulating me like I was getting in. I’m already in.”
“I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else’s talent,” Jordan wrote in his 1998 autobiography, “For the Love of the Game.” “I believe greatness is an evolutionary process that changes and evolves era to era. Without Julius Erving, David Thompson, Walter Davis, and Elgin Baylor, there would never have been a Michael Jordan. I evolved from them.”