Friday, April 3, 2009

Thompson's "reluctant" 73-point game

In today's Charlotte Observer and online, I try to sort out myths from facts about the legend of N.C. State great David Thompson. Click here to read the story.

One fact about Thompson that I didn't get into much in the story -- he once scored 73 points in an NBA game for a Denver Nuggets team coached by Larry Brown. LB, now the coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, told me the other day that it was "a reluctant 73."

Brown said that at halftime, when Thompson already had 52 points on 20-of-23 shooting, his teammates wanted him to shoot constantly in the second half and try to go for 100 (Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 in a 1962 game -- still the NBA record).

Thompson didn't want to, Brown said. "He just wanted to play the game," the coach said.

Thompson ended with 73, hitting 28 of 38 shots from the field. This was the final game of the 1978 season, and Thompson was engaged in a heated battle for the scoring title with George Gervin. The Nuggets' game was that afternoon. When Gervin heard what he had to do to win, he engaged in a scoring frenzy of his own, scoring 63 (while taking 49 shots) to edge Thompson for the title.

Brown also said he had some regrets about the way he handled Thompson at the time. Brown said he wasn't a "mature" enough coach at the time to understand or even recognize Thompson's drug and alcohol problems, which kept Thompson from totally fulfilling his promise in the pros. (Thompson's career ultimately ended after he fell down the stairs while struggling with a bouncer at New York's infamous Studio 54 disco, tearing up his knee).

Thompson has now been sober for 20 years and helps run a Christian sports ministry called 2xsalt (pronounced "To Exalt" and on the web at Among other things, it runs a series of summer camps in several sports, including basketball. To register or for more information, call 704-586-1555.


kosspro4aa said...

...graduated from NC State in '73 (we used to WIN big games back then; that's no "myth" either!), and here's my favorite "David Thompson moment"...verses UNC at Reynolds Coliseum (loud? doesn't get any better than that)...after a missed Carolina shot, it was, I believe, Mitch Kupchak, Tommy LaGarde, Bobby Jones (no slouches there) and Tommy Burleson all fighting for the ball...David's arm "pops out" over the top of all of 'em, and snares the wasn't so much how high David could jump; it was like he "rose" from the floor whenever he wanted...super article, and thanks for the brief (happy!) trip down memory lane...

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