In His Autobiography, the School Basketball Big John Thompson Is Plainspoken and Profound
“I’m six toes 10 inches tall,” the longtime Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson writes in his posthumously revealed autobiography. “I’ve a big mouth, an enormous head and a deep voice. I naturally make an enormous noise. Not solely am I Black, however I’ve darkish pores and skin. My toes are large, my physique is large. Generally I’m loud, however I’m loud as a result of I’m composed of huge issues.”
Thompson, who died in August at 78, has left behind an unusually good sports activities memoir with an uncommon title: “I Got here as a Shadow.” Although he grew up within the Washington, D.C., initiatives and his father by no means realized to learn or write, Thompson had an uncle, Lewis Grandison Alexander, who was lively within the Harlem Renaissance. Alexander wrote a poem titled “Nocturne Varial” that started:
I got here as a shadow,
I stand now a lightweight;
The depth of my darkness
Transfigures your evening.
This guide is about Thompson’s personal shadows, ones he was sorry to forged. As a big, dark-skinned Black man coming of age within the Fifties and ’60s, he felt sorely underestimated — he sensed that white America instinctively thought-about him inelegant and unintellectual. Later, when he started to win as a school basketball coach, the character of that shadow modified. All of the sudden he was seen as a fearsome intimidator and a bully, designations he deplored however realized to make use of as a result of they gave him a aggressive edge.
In the event you adopted faculty basketball within the Seventies, ’80s and ’90s, you’re conscious of the popularity of the Georgetown Hoyas. (The group gained an NCAA championship in 1984.) They had been thought to play tough. They had been a group many cherished to hate. “Bands in opposing arenas,” Thompson writes, “performed the Darth Vader theme music after I walked by.”
Thompson considers that popularity overblown and deeply racist. Individuals weren’t used to seeing an enormous Black man yell, or Black gamers who wouldn’t again down. When his star heart Patrick Ewing retaliated after being constantly fouled, Thompson writes, “a complete bunch of people that by no means performed the sport noticed a Black group defending itself and referred to as us thugs.”
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