Without John Thompson, Allen Iverson may never have become Allen Iverson.
Thompson, the Georgetown Hoyas’ longtime men’s basketball coach, died August 31. A cause of death was not immediately announced.
In his final years with the Hoyas, Thompson signed and mentored a young Iverson. Without Thompson, Iverson may never have become a Philadelphia 76ers star and basketball legend.
When Iverson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the All-Star credited Thompson for “saving my life.” This is what Iverson meant.
John Thompson died a few days before turning 79
The sports world has lost another impactful figure.
Days after former NBA All-Star forward Cliff Robinson passed away from complications of cancer, John Thompson died three days before turning 79.
A former Boston Celtics center who backed up Bill Russell in the 1960s, Thompson coached Georgetown from 1972-99. Thompson went 596-239 in 27 seasons with the Hoyas.
Georgetown made 20 consecutive postseason appearances from 1979-92. In the middle of that streak came a national title victory in 1984 when Georgetown defeated Houston.
Thompson became the first Black head coach had never won a national title in basketball.
Thompson is the latest death in a rough year for basketball. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi, died in a helicopter crash in January.
Longtime NBA commissioner David Stern died on January 1.
John Thomspon recruited and developed Allen Iverson
John Thompson is responsible for recruiting and developing four of the greatest players in NBA history.
First, Patrick Ewing dominated in the paint for Georgetown in the early 1980s. Ewing joined the New York Knicks in 1985 and became a star center who eventually landed in the Hall of Fame.
Dikembe Mutombo followed in Ewing’s footsteps and reached the NBA in 1991 with the Denver Nuggets. A four-time Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time All-Star, Mutombo entered the Hall of Fame in September 2015.
Another legendary big man, Alonzo Mourning, entered the Hall of Fame a year before Mutombo. Mourning won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and won a ring in the 2006 NBA Finals alongside Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
Then, there was Allen Iverson. Among the last of Thompson’s stars, Iverson averaged 23 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.2 steals in two seasons with the Hoyas.
The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Iverson, who won Big East Defensive Player of the Year in both seasons, with the No. 1 overall pick in 1996.
Allen Iverson credited Thompson for “saving my life”
Allen Iverson landed at Georgetown because he ran into legal issues as a senior in high school. Iverson spent four months at a correctional facility after he was convicted of attacking people with a chair at a bowling alley.
The case drew criticism for a perceived racial bias against Iverson, who is Black.
When Iverson entered the Hall of Fame in 2016, he emotionally thanked Thompson for “saving my life.”
“I was recruited by every school in the country for football and basketball. And an incident happened in high school and all that was taken away. No other teams, no other schools were recruiting me anymore. My mom went to Georgetown and begged him to give me a chance. And he did.”
Iverson paid tribute to his former coach in two tweets. The first tweet featured Iverson writing, “Thanks For Saving My Life Coach.”
“I’m going to miss you, but I’m sure that you are looking down on us with a big smile,” Iverson wrote. “I would give anything just for one more phone call from you only to hear you say, “Hey MF”, then we would talk about everything except basketball…….”