Many NBA fans today have never heard of David Thompson, but he was the original high flyer in the league and a player with one of the highest measured vertical leaps ever recorded at 48 inches. On top of that, he was a great scorer and made quite an impact during his time with the Denver Nuggets, for whom he played for seven seasons. Thompson was one of the most popular ABA/NBA stars back in the day, and his playing style inspired many at that time because he was doing things people didn't think were even possible.
Jordan's favorite player growing up
Michael Jordan is one of the players that was inspired when watching Thompson play as a kid, and in an older interview, he talked about whether Thompson would be able to play in the NBA today. Jordan, who always paid attention to details, said Thompson would be a significant problem for many guards in the NBA because of the combination of his incredible offensive repertoire and tremendous explosiveness.
“He would be a force to reckon with. His scoring abilities, his uniqueness, creativity I think, would give a totally different dimension to our team without a doubt. His scoring abilities, he would definitely be a treat. At 6’4″, what he could do, I think, it marveled a lot of people.To be honest, a lot of my guys don’t remember David Thompson, but I do. The whole alley-oop term, he created. So he would definitely be a force to be reckoned with.”
Thompson would fit really well in today's NBA
Jordan shared what it takes to guard a player like Thompson, who regularly dropped 30 on any given night. Thompson was listed at 6'4," which Jordan believes would use to his advantage when trying to guard him, even though he admits that would probably be a more challenging task than it looks.
"It would be tough. First, I would have to study his weaknesses, and right now, I wouldn't know what his weaknesses would be. He was a great jump shooter, had great leaping ability. One way I would play him is physical, try to use my size as much as possible, and force him to his weaker hand and hope I can contain him and have a hand in his face.I guess if I'm guarding him, the best defense is a stellar offense. I would make sure he pays on the other end and take some energy from his offense."
Thompson made five all-star appearances in his relatively short career that was cut short because of injuries and, later on, severe drug addictions. During the 1979/80 season, he suffered from loneliness and isolation, which affected his extensive drug abuse. Thompson sustained a career-ending injury, after which he got into a fight at a nightclub, and soon after, his basketball playing days were long gone at the age of 30. Luckily for him, he got sober and dedicated his life to helping others who suffered from similar problems and is now working as a motivational speaker. Thompson got inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006 and was one of the players who introduced Jordan when he entered the Hall of Fame in 2009.