John Thompson Jr. was known for a lot of things. You could point to his coaching career at Georgetown, his battle for equality for other Black basketball coaches, brazen coaching style or his career with the Boston Celtics.
Another identifier for Thompson was sweat. The man sweat a lot, so much so that he had to wear a towel over his shoulder during games to keep himself dry. As a part of the "Inside the NBA" crew's tribute to Thompson during their Monday night broadcast, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson all wore towels over their shoulders.
"As we talk about John Thompson, I feel like, as nice as you guys look, we're all a little under-dressed," Johnson said.
After they were all equipped with their towels, the conversation shifted toward what a great man Thompson was and the lessons he instilled in his players.
"When I got the text this morning, I thought about Patrick Ewing," Barkley said. "Three guys -- Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning -- three great men. Not just great basketball players, but great men. There's only two basketball coaches that when you talk to their former players, they say 'He doesn't talk to us about basketball, he talks to us about being great men.' John Thompson was first, and Dean Smith was second."
"John Thompson wanted to create great Black men, and I'll always respect and admire him for that," Barkley said.
O'Neal shared the same thoughts and even went on to say that one of the few moments that made him realize he wanted to play basketball was watching Ewing and the Hoyas in the early 1980s. They became the reason O'Neal wore No. 33 in college, and even though he ultimately decided to play for LSU, O'Neal mentioned he would've also loved to play for Georgetown.
"If I didn't play for Dale Brown [at LSU], I can honestly say I would've loved to play for John Thompson," O'Neal said. "He was just so nice, and to hear John Thompson say, 'Big man, I like the way you play, you're a great player,' it made me feel pretty good."
Thompson's impact on the basketball world stretches far beyond his former Georgetown players, and it has shown with the vast amount of people to show their appreciation for the Hall of Famer since he passed away Monday.
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