This is a great article on David Thompson who is the greatest player ever in the ACC:
For those who never saw him play it is probably impossible to understand how good he was. Teammate Phil Spence sums it up succinctly:
It was six against five. DT counted as two.
United States Navy (Retired)
Thompson was playing for Crest High School, right outside of Shelby, NC when I was in high school. Our schools were in the same conference, but the basketball teams weren't in the same universe. He played varsity all 4 years....
Some list this game as the greatest ACC game, where NC State beat Maryland 103-100 in overtime and then went on to win the NCAA title over UCLA with Walton.
I was a Maryland fan back then, since I lived in the DC area, and I watched the game on t.v. The NCAA tournament took only conference champions so the loser of the game would not be in the tournament. The NIT tournament back then was prestigious because there were several good teams who were 2nd in their conferences. In the previous year Maryland had been knocked out in the ACC tournament and went on to the NIT where it won the final by 30 or so points. That 1974 year Maryland had Tom McMillan (senior 6-11 forward, skinny but could shoot), Leonard Elmore (senior 6-9 center) and John Lucas in his sophomore year.
NC State had in addition to Thompson, Tom Burleson (7-2), Tim Stoddard (6-7 forward, who became a good relief pitcher for the Orioles), and the tiny point guard Monte Towe (5-7). In that final Burleson scored 38 and Thompson scored 29.
NC State's record that year was 30-1, its only loss a regular season loss to UCLA.
Remember, too, that during Thompson's college years, the idiotic anti-dunking rule was in effect.
David Thompson was a beast. I had the chance to see him play several games at Duke, and there was nobody on the court that could come close to matching his vertical. I am not sure that anyone sense has had the "ups" that he had. It was a thing of beauty to see him appear to float up and above the rim, and then softly drop the ball in the hoop. I am in some ways glad the no dunk rule was in effect then, because it highlighted his vertical more and made it more artistic than a slam dunk.
I agree with everything said about Thompson's leaping ability -- in 50 years of basketball watching, I never saw anyone jump as high as easily.
But it diminishes Thompson to think of him as a high jumper. He weas so much more than that. He was the best outside shooter of his era --one reason that he was so much better than Jordan as a college player -- Jordan didn't achieve Thompson's shooting skill until he got in the pros. When you combined his ability to shoot and his ability to elevate on his jump shot, you can understand how hard he was to defend.
He was also a solid ballhandler. He could play great defense -- and did in the crunch -- but he was so valuable offensively that Norm Sloan normally protected him on the defensive end, unless the game was in balance.
Fred Schaus, who coached Jerry West at West Virginia and the Lakers, saw Thompson as a freshman and said he was better as a freshman than West was a senior at WVU. He called Thompson one of the 10 best players on the planet -- when he was a freshman.
You can make reasonable arguments for guys like Laettner, Sampson, Ford and maybe Duncan as the second-best play in ACC history. But there's no doubt or argument about who is No. 1.
The greatest atrocity in the history of ACC basketball, including bringing in Miami, BC, and VT was when they named Michael Jordan as the greatest ACC Player of all time. What an absolute crock.
Thompson was phenomenal. But, he was not the first high flyer who could do it all. In fact, Thompson was an unexceptional dribbbler and exhibited none of the creativity as a finisher that was the hallmark of the man who created the genre you speak of, and that would be Connie Hawkins. www.nba.com/history/players/hawkins_bio.html.
Slamming started with Daryl Dawkins' breaking backboards and nearly pulling them down. Rims than were fixed. Dawkins lead to the pull-down rims, to not calling walking, to players "dunking" by pulling down the rim (with a fixed rim those "things" would have shot back to half court and the dunker would have fallen backwards).
By the way, there was a 6 foot guy at Cornell, 1964-1968 (his parents, both school teachers insisted, I shouldn't know why), had a very similar game to Thompson's. Greg Morris jumped with ease, from standing got up with I want to say both elbows over the rim, shot with that type of elevation a very accurate jump shot from pro range, shot with equal accuracy off a pull up, and, like Thompson, did not dance but rather went to the basket linerally and dropped it in. Unlike Thompson, Greg did not play at a powerhouse basketball school, in one of the primier leagues in the country, and with a supporting cast like Thompson's, although the Cornell team's his first two years as a varsity player, Cornell could play with nearly anyone, not night in or night out, and did not go beyond 6 deep with that quality player. As I've mentioned several times here, the year after Kentucky lost to Texas Western in that now lionized national championship game (CCNY's NCAA Championship team had four black starters in 1951, as did Cincinnati's 1962 and 1963 Championship teams that beat Ohio State's team lead by Jerry Lucas, John Havlilhek, Larry Siegfried, and also included Bobby Knight), Cornell went down to Lexington to play essentially the same team. Everyone throught it was a ridiculous joke until Greg dropped 37 on Louie Dampier and Pat Riley and Cornell won by 35.
Am I saying that Greg Morris was David Thompson? No. But to say that David Thompson invented something new, I think is wrong. Connie Hawkins, now there was new.
When you get into a debate about the originals of the modern game -- especially the flamboyant drive and dunk, I believe most basketball hisories will start the tree with Elgin Baylor. From that tree, all the others -- Hawkins, Doctor J, Dominque, David and Jordan have evolved.
Not saying he was best -- Bill Russell was clearly the best player of that era and Julius Erving and Thompson and later Jordan were better at what Baylor did -- but Baylor set the pattern for the modern game. Oscar, actually played a lot more on the floor than the players we're talking about. He could elevate when he needed to (especially on the boards). But he used his quickness to get into position and his strength to convert ... much more than his elevation. I don't remember him as a frequent or flamboyant dunker.
I don' see the point in comparing Hawkins and Thompson. Connie was a slender 6-8 forward with long arms and huge hands . Yes, he was flamboyant dunjker ... but Thompson was a different player -- a wing guard with a great handle and a great jump shot who was not allowed to dunk in college.
But he was allowed to dunk in the ABA, which led to the greatest dunk contest in basketball history -- the contest at halftime of the 1976 ABA all-star game that turned into a personal duel between Dr. J and David Thompson. Erving converted the most famous dunk in dunk-contest history -- the one where he takes off behind the foul line and slams it home -- but he still would have lost to DT, except that DT missed his fourth dunk ...
Interesting thing about Thompson ... with all his physical gifts, he actually had small hands. That actually helped him as a shooter -- one of the things that slowed Jordan's development as a shooter were his huge hands -- but it hurt when it came to dunk competition -- Thompson couldn't palm the ball with one hand -- think about that and think about him still dazzling the basketball world with his dunking ability.
Baylor didn't play above the rim. If we are just talking about "moves," he was amazing. More amazing, however, was Earl.
The most amazing combination of all was Pete.
Oscar was a back down jump shooter who best operated from the foul line extended down to the baseline. His moves to the basket bespoke his strength, timing, and amazing vision, poise, command of the ball, and brilliance. He kept it simple and deadly effective.
If you want to talk about a small forward who was way beyond his time, who had it ALL in terms of an offensive game, I think you have to mention Rick Barry. He had a jump shoot from the pro three and every spot inside it, shot from any angle, read momentum and beat guys off the dribble with ease, never force, finished with either hand, was a terrific passer (we are talking terrific, not fancy), and shot foul shots around or over 90 percent.
Connie Hawkins could shoot from outside, only "outside" back then was not commanded by the "three." The game wascommanded by the logical, the imperative around which the game was conceived and to this day is still played: get as close to the basket as you can for the best prcentage shot. Actually, before the jump shot, the floor was spread by great set shot (Dolph Shays) and push shot (Cousy) artists who shot from real distance. But, once the jump shot took over, a 17 footer was better than a 19 footer, all things being equal--that is having space and time. Hawkins had no reason to be shooting from distance beyond 17. He shot very well from that distance, space was not an issue because he could create it at will (had a terrific turn around shot and arms that didn't stop), and of course was going to kill you off the dribble, which was his first option. I dispute this thin and long description to the extent you suggest that Hawkins was not powerful. He played with enormous power. His shoulders were very broad and muscled, and his arm, back and leg muscles, while not pumped as the athletes of today, were like cables that pulled on long levers. His hands were not only huge, but powerful. He mixed strength with incredible subtleness and softness that could convert to steel and back again in a flash.
There was no such thing as a power forward in those days. Hawkins was a forward who invented the drive, glide and drazel game over the rim. Baylor's game was different; he relied on moving the ball around in the air, and articulating his body and changing speeds to put himself and the ball where the defender wasn't. I'm certain that everyone who watched him had their imaginations stretched and wanted to emulate him. That most likely included Hawkins, but in all likelihood not nearly as much as you think. Hawkins grew up in Bed Sty in the 50s. If he had a TV (anyone taking bets?) maybe he'd have gotten to see Baylor a handful of times a year. I don't think that anyone of us can imagine the stuff that was being thrown down on the courts that Hawkins roamed when he was coming up. This was Brooklyn, a part of Brooklyn that few existed, and there were players there, there was a game there, well, who knows. Doug Moe knew of it, probably touched it some, maybe in City playoff games, but the guys I am talking about were phantoms. Two greats emerged from those streets in that era--Hawkins and Roger Brown. I was maybe 12. Before I had barely heard of something called college ball, before I even began playing the game, I had heard those two names. Both got banned from playing college ball and then got black balled from the NBA for 9 years, had their careers robbed from them because of a supposed scandel (anyone know any details about it; I don't) in which they were never shown to have been complicit.
These discussions about who was or is the best are great fun, some of the most fun for us sports fans. It started for me with who was the best center fielder in the City, which is to say, on the Planet. I always had the Duke; I still insist that I got it right (to my shock, when the Duke died, Dave Anderstood, the iconic sports writer, said that I actually have."
Thanks for the fun, all of you, especially Olympic Fan who reminds me of the old days, and I fear might well have had the Mick or Willie. "You, you're good. No, you're good you." Analyze This
I must have fallen asleep last night and misunderstood my own post. I don't recall mentioning nor questioning who "invented something new." My ONLY contention with what your wrote was that you seem to indicate that Thompson was not a "finisher." Now, you seem to be agreeing with me that he was a "finisher" but NOT an "inventor." So, which is it?
The only thing that I know from personal observation... IN HIS DAY... Thompson invented effortless flying....
[QUOTE=Olympic Fan;596795]When you get into a debate about the originals of the modern game -- especially the flamboyant drive and dunk, I believe most basketball hisories will start the tree with Elgin Baylor. From that tree, all the others -- Hawkins, Doctor J, Dominque, David and Jordan have evolved.[QUOTE]
Elgin was Seattles best before we thought about coffee.
However, could Thompson drive baseline and sweep up on the other side and lay it off the rim, drive left and glide to his right, drive right and spin to his left, stutter step to freeze a guy at the top of the key while dribbling, fake hard right, pull it back and to the left and then beat him left, did he have varied pace coming across the lane and vary the size of his first step, did he move the ball around in the air, aka, Elgin, Hawkins, the Dr., MJ, Kobe? NOT that I can recall. He was not of that lineage. hwe was not that kind of finisher.
Elgin was undoubtedly an influence on many in many ways. However, the first to develop an artistic, impossible to believe, captivating to see, aerial game which one typically hears having been originated by the good Doctor, was not he but instead was Connie Hawkins. Unlike Doc, Connie Hawkins had a jump shot, a jump shot that was unstoppable. And, if you watched Connie Hawkins and the good Doctor, and watched Elgin, you would see little, if any, of Elgin in the games of the other two. I do not believe that Elgin was Hawkins' inspiration or model. I think that Hawkins was an original; he created the game in which a forward would bring it into the lane and render defenses helpless--they had not a clue what he would do in response to what they did and could have done nothing to stop him if they did.
When I used the word "finisher" it was this gendre of play that I was referring to. I did not make that clear at the beginning when I said that Thompson was not a finisher. Thompson was a finisher but was not a finisher in the lineage of Hawkins, Dr. J, MJ, Domineque, and Kobe. To me, finisher means being of the lineage of which I have spoken. I do not think Thompson was or is a part of that lineage, as terrific as he was.
These debates can be fun or not. I wouldn't kick David Thompson off the short list of the very best there was. There are 49 other players in that top 50; we, at least I, could make a case for each of them to wear such a mantel. I think we are delving into the realm of the mythical. Who is better: Magic or Bird? Was Michael, Michael, even without the Zen Master? Kobe, Kobe? Would either of them have won even one title if Phil Jackson did not, with his sweat lodges, warrier myths, zen meditations and other "journeys," somehow bring them to let go for a moment of their ego minds and see the game for what it could be?
Talking about the best and the first is wonderful fun. But, this game is about something else. Phil used to quote to Michael's Bulls a verse from Kiplings' The Jungle Book. It did it for Michael and his teammates. I think that it was sheer genuis of Phil to use it. I think it describes the game we all adore:
Now this is the Law of the Jungle—as old and as true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."
Last edited by greybeard; 10-08-2012 at 01:36 AM.