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On Aug. 31, 2020, legendary coach and hall of fame star, John Thompson Jr passed away. The man is known as simply “Big John,” throughout college basketball. At this time the only thing known is that he had suffered numerous ailments prior to his death. His actual cause of death has yet to be disclosed.
His Birth and Early Years
Thompson was born on Sept. 2, 1941, in Washington, D.C. From the years he played for Providence College from 1960 to 1964. He was All-State from the years 1962 to 1964.
The year 1964 was a busy one for Thompson. He was All-District, All-American, All-Conference, and Team MVP. Thompson was also named the New England Player of the Year in 1964.
Front here he went on to play for the Boston Celtics from the years 1964 to 1966. In 1972 he began coaching men’s basketball at Georgetown University from 1972 through 1999. Thompson coached some of the greatest basketball players, Allen Iverson and Patrick Ewing, to name a couple.
In 1984, he led Georgetown to the National Championship. Thompson made the team into a powerhouse, helping them take the Hoyas to a total of three Final Fours in the 1980s.
More on His Career
Also during his 27-year tenure, his team won seven Big East titles. In 1988 he helped the United States’ national team win the bronze medal in the Olympics. In 1999, Thompson was inducted into the Hall of Fame for all of his great accomplishments.
Not only was Thompson an excellent basketball player and coach he was also an actor. In 1992 he was in the TV show “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper.” He was also in “The Sixth Man” in 1997 and “He Got Game” in 1998.
In 1965, Thompson married Gwendolyn and together they had three children. In 1999, the pair were divorced.
The great coach was able to help guide Ewing, Irvine, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo into Hall of Famer’s as well. Ewing is the current coach for Georgetown and stated that Thompson helped him “grow” into the man he is today.
Standing For What Is Right
Thompson was a trailblazer by his own rights — the First Black Head Coach to achieve a title — also stood up for injustice he saw. For instance, in 1989 he walked off the court before a game against Boston College, protesting the NCAA’s Proposition 48.
The measure that the NCAA would use to ban academically ineligible freshman from receiving any scholarships. Thompson viewed this as a way for the NCAA to restrict opportunities for minority students. He later told The Washington Post that, “This is my way of bringing attention to a rule a lot of people were not aware of.”
A rule he felt would “affect a great many individuals.” His hope was to make the NCAA members see the injustice and rectify the situation.
The great legend stood up for his players on and off the court. He treated his team as his family and protected them as such. In 1989, Thompson went on record saying how he had once confronted a known drug kingpin.
The kingpin’s name was Rayful Edmond III and he had tried to befriend a few of Thompson’s players. Eventually, the Edmond was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Thompson dismissed one of the players involved with Edmond, John Turner. Turner ended up being charged and arrested on drug charges as well.
Remembering A Legend
Many of Thompson’s former players and fans went to social media to mourn the loss of the great man. Iverson even thanked him for saving his life.
Ewing said that the legend was always there for him. “Even though my mom and dad were always there, he was always a person I could pick up the phone and call if I had a problem or if I had a question.”
He was 78 years old at the time of his death.
Written by Sheena Robertson
CNN: John Thompson Jr., the first Black coach to win the NCAA championship, dies age 78
ESPN: Legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. dies at age 78
Friars: JOHN R. THOMPSON, JR.
IMDb: John Thompson
New York Daily News: John Thompson, legendary Georgetown coach and Basketball Hall of Famer, dies at 78
Inline Image by Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum/White House’s Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
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