When the NBA was in one of its most difficult stages during the 1970s, a young man appeared, electrifying the masses. He scored 73 points, more than one of his greatest admirers – Michael Jordan – ever scored. David Thompson was one of the most intriguing players of his time, but money and drugs prevented an even bigger career.
His vertical jump was incredible, 44 inches (which is around 112 centimeters). That value was worth an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Thompson himself later claimed that he even measured four inches more. Officially, Thompson was listed by the NBA at 6’6″ however, some of his teammates claimed that he was about five inches smaller. To categorize it: one of the greatest dunkers of NBA history, Vince Carter, “only” reached 43 inches in a measurement during his prime.
Thompson trained a lot in his youth to achieve such an amazing vertical leap. One teammate recalled his training sessions with Thompson.
“He trained more like a football player, pushing nearly 60 pounds per leg.”
Dunks were banned during Thompson’s time in college. His only dunk was in the last game when his jersey was pulled to the rafters against the Charlotte 49ers.
“I felt like I had to leave a memory to the fans, so I grabbed a monster slam, the fans went completely crazy and gave me standing ovations, I got a technical foul and the coach immediately substituted me.”
The Atlanta Hawks drafted the Skywalker 1975 with the first pick in the draft. However, they were unable to reach an agreement.
“They treated me as if they did not want me, they invited me to dinner at McDonald’s.”
Thompson said, he was preffered to join the Nuggets from the ABA instead. For Thompson, it was the logical decision. Playing in the ABA was a spectacle, significantly more advanced than the then conservative NBA, with exciting players and athletes such as George Gervin, Artis Gilmore or Julius Erving. In his first year he led the Nuggets to the finals, but Doctor J and the Nets were one size too big.
But it was another duel with Erving that went down in the annals of American basketball: the first Slam Dunk contest. With Thompson, the Iceman, and Doctor J, the Creme de la Creme arrived and gave the fans their money worth. In the end, Doctor J won with the famous dunk from the free throw line just ahead of Thompson. Eyewitnesses later reported that the Skywalker showed significantly better dunks during training, but he did not show them in the competition.
Thompson was one of the first players of the 70s, who brought sheer incredible athleticism to the NBA. Even in today’s NBA with all athletic freaks, Thompson would stand out.