David Thompson: I’d play every day, any time, all day

January 29, 2013
By Bill Krueger

We recently talked with Wolfpack basketball legend David Thompson, a member of the first class in the NC State Athletic Hall of Fame, for a story in the special winter issue of NC State magazine. But there wasn’t room in the magazine for our complete interview, so here are more of Thompson’s answers to our questions about basketball and his time at NC State:

When he knew basketball was his sport: When I made my first hoop when I was five years old, shooting in the backyard. Everybody played basketball and everybody loved basketball in my family. My sisters all played. My brother, he’s the one who taught me how to play, really. He was the one that I really looked up to as a basketball player. He would take me around to different parks and we would play against different players. He would always tell me, ‘For your age, you’re the best player in the world.’ And I believed that. So that was good for my confidence.

His impression when he first arrived at NC State as a student: It was a long drive way up here, and we finally got on campus and started playing these pick-up games. I felt right at home once I started playing basketball.

davidthpmpsonHow he felt about practice: I loved to play anytime. I’d play every day, any time, all day. Down in Shelby, we played all the time. During the summer we’d go to Gardner-Webb College and play all day. They had a place called the Snack Shop and I’d go in there and get a doughnut with some ice cream on top, eat that, go back and play again.

On pick-up games when he was at NC State: We’d go play at Carmichael and play against Walter Davis and all those guys, and Bob McAdoo even after he got out of college. Allan Bristow would come down from Virginia Tech. I’d recruit all the guys to come work as counselors at the Gardner-Webb basketball camp, so we had some great counselor games down there. We had Quinn Buckner, John Lucas, Walter Davis…

Toughest loss while playing for NC State: The Maryland game at home. I wanted to go my whole career without losing a game at home, and Brad Davis hit that shot at the buzzer to beat us by one point. That was devastating. After that game, I said, ‘We’ll never lose to them again,’ and we played them in the ACC tournament and beat them.

On changes in the rules: I missed out on some great rules. I missed out on the three-point shot, you couldn’t dunk when I was there and freshmen weren’t eligible to play. So even though I’ve got the highest score, on average, I’m not the all-time leading scorer at NC State.

A lasting lesson he learned from head coach Norm Sloan: His motto was ‘Constancy to purpose of individuals results in a team of champions,’ and by that he meant that if everybody understood their role and did their job individually and collectively, we would win. I took that I share that with kids when I talk to them. In basketball, sometimes your role is not going to the role you want, but if you accept it and work hard the main thing is that you win. And if you win, then everybody will get the glory.

On being competitive: I want to win and everything. My daughter is the same way I am, so we go at it. My wife has to say, ‘Y’all calm down now.’

On whether the glory days are back for NC State basketball: I certainly hope so. We’re headed in the right direction. Getting into the Sweet Sixteen was incredible and I think the recruiting class we have this year should be very helpful, but we have to keep it going. We’ve got to keep bringing in classes like that so that there won’t be any dry spells.

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7 Responses to “David Thompson: I’d play every day, any time, all day”

  1. Frank McGuire says:

    David, you were my father’s hero. He died in 1986, but one of his biggest thrills in life was that national championship. Thank you for continuing to be supportive of NC State, and being an inspiration to generations of kids in NC.

  2. Jeanne Hobson says:

    I was at State with David. Loved watching him play. My dad graduated from State in 49. When he got Alzheimer’s he swore he and David were roommates and would try to call him. My dad may not have remembered me but he always remembered David! Thanks David for giving him great State memories!

  3. rob shade says:

    I first heard of dt back in 1975,when i did see this guy play,AWESOME! i the oavealways loved this man game,he not dr.j (2nd greatest all time) was my idol,every picture in a mag i got.loved his dvd,been waiting yearsand years for someone to do a documentary.Sure Jordan was great but he like so many idiolized dt! Wish there was more footageof him! Especially the day he scored 73pts. Thatwould be a jewel if someone actually taped that game,i want that awfully bad! Thats about the only highlite i have not seen! THE REAL SKYWALKER,not JORDAN,ERVING,CARTER!

  4. Greg Drake says:

    Was a student at UNC and was fortunate to see DT play his last game in Carmichael (the only time during his NCSU career that UNC beat State). Two things I remember vividly about that game: 1. A play where he soared over Tommy Lagarde and Mitch Kupchak for a tip in rebound, and 2. the standing ovation he received from UNC fans at the end of the game-homage to his great college career, but more likely that we were so happy to see him go!!! No more punishment for UNC from # 44. As a diehard UNC fan, I have to admit-the greatest player in ACC basketball history wore #44 in Red and White; not 23 in sky Blue and White. Glad to hear that DT is doing well. I was and always will be a fan, in spite of what he did to my Heels during his college career..

  5. Herman Kiger says:

    What I remember–David would not let the Wolfpack lose–no matter what. When David fell on his head we had a roomful of people watching on TV and nobody spoke for 5 minutes. It was eery.

  6. Mark Daniel says:

    David,
    You were the greatestbasketball player ever to play in college. I am from NC, but family had to move to Maryland. I had to throw-down to defend Carolina honor. But I did like Maryland, but Loved NC State. I cried when state beat UCLA. People only talk about the one block, when you went up and gotten Walton in the second game, but you blocked Bill Walton shot off the backboard in the first GAme but wolfpack lost, but thank God for second chances !!
    I tried to pattern my game like yours, to no success. But at 5’11 I could dunk with both hands, left or right and touch the top of the square ! But you were my hero, in good times and thru your challenges, the Lord was merciful and extended His love to us ! What a testimony !!!
    God Bless
    Bishop Mark A. Daniel

  7. Paula Swaim Scarboro says:

    David Thompson was and is the best! He was good yet very humble. Always nice to everyone! I will always be thankful that I was blessed to attend NC State in the early ’70s. At the time I just didn’t realize just how great the times were!

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