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Remembering John Thompson | Reese's Final Thought

Today's Final Thought is dedicated to John Thompson and the legacy he leaves behind.

WASHINGTON — Legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson died Sunday at the age of 78. 

“Big John” as he was affectionately known, was a product of D.C., starring at Archbishop Carroll High School before winning two NBA titles as a player with the Boston Celtics. As most of people from D.C. already know, he was the coach that put Georgetown’s basketball program on the map and established it as a national powerhouse. 

RELATED: John Thompson Jr., former Georgetown men's basketball coach, dies at 78

In 1984, he became the first African-American coach to win a National Championship with Patrick Ewing as the centerpiece of that team. Thompson led the Hoyas to three Final Fours, seven Big East titles, 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, and coached four Hall of Famers at Georgetown: Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson.

As incredible as his basketball resume is, his character is what truly stands out about the man. Nintey-seven percent of Thompson’s players who stayed for four years graduated from Georgetown. The stories of how he protected the young men that he coached sound like a movie script. There was the time he confronted one of the biggest drug dealers in the history of D.C., Rayful Edmond, face to face and convinced him to stay away from his players. Probably the most well-known example is his relationship with Allen Iverson, whom Thompson recruited when every other college that had offered him a scholarship rescinded them after Iverson was convicted for his role in a bowling alley brawl, a conviction that was later overturned. Iverson thanked Thompson for “saving my life” and has spoken about Thompson’s role as a mentor and father figure that continued long after his Georgetown days were done. 

Another incredible example was in 1989 when Thompson walked off the court before the start of a game to protest Proposition 42, which he believed unfairly targeted scholarship opportunities for Black students.

Thompson’s impact on basketball and on the lives of the young men he coached is immeasurable. In D.C., he was a source of great pride. Here was a man who commanded respect from everyone from drug kingpins to presidents. Yet this same man dedicated his life to impacting the youth and preparing them for life after basketball. For all of these things, he will forever be remembered and revered. 

Rest In Peace Big John.

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