“Death comes in threes” might be nothing more than a cliche trope but this morning it is a sad reality when it comes to beloved public figures. Following the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman and NBA great Cliff Robinson, we learn this morning that John Thompson, legendary head coach for Georgetown men’s basketball, is dead at age 78 according to WJLA.
There aren’t many details to share as the news is circulating Twitter with no immediate confirmation or statement from his family. Most recently, Thompson had retired from the Nike board of directors and was preparing to release an autobiography in January of 2021.
Obviously, Thompson’s family must be grieving but we can only imagine how his former players and NBA greats like Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning must feeling right now. Especially Iverson who has long referred to his coach as a father figure.
John Thompson was much more than a basketball coach as we all are much more than our professional achievements but Coach Thompson was built different. As the story goes, Thompson once told allegedly murderous D.C. drug dealer Rayful Edmond in no uncertain terms to kick rocks after learning that Alonzo Mourning and John Turner had befriended him. Rayful and his crew were thought to be connected to at least 40 bodies in the area. There was no kool-aid pumping in John Thompson’s heart.
To further illustrate that point, we refer you to the date January 14, 1989. That was the day that John Thompson walked off the court in protest of Proposition 48 that would bench college freshmen (see Black) athletes who failed to meet certain academic standards. Thompson called the policy straight-up racist. He wasn’t wrong.
John Thompson loved basketball. He loved his players. He loved us.
Rest in peace, sir. Thank you.