When you think of the evolution of great dunkers and I ask, “Who was the high-flying former ABA great that came before Michael Jordan?” The name you will probably say is Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Fair enough, but David “Skywalker” Thompson should be the next person you name and might be the first person Michael Jordan would name. Even though his Airness ended up at the University of North Carolina, it was Skywalker from North Carolina State that inspired Michael Jordan the most. That’s the reason why Thompson was personally asked by Jordan to introduce him at his Hall of Fame induction.
It’s unfortunate that Thompson wasn’t allowed to dunk in college and we don’t have as much footage of Thompson and his reported 48-inch vert (legend has it he could take a quarter off the top of a backboard and leave two dimes and a nickel but that story actually belongs to Earl “The Goat” Manigault) as we do every middle school player in the nation with a 30-inch vert nowadays. But, the NBA still had enough footage to put together a decent “Top 10” list. So enjoy what we can of one of the all-time greats that had the potential to be the greatest. Unfortunately, alcohol, drugs and an off-the-court injury shortened his still worthy-of-praise career.
Also worth mentioning is how the Atlanta Hawks almost ended up with him. In 1974, they traded Pete Maravich for a few picks. One of those picks turned out to be the No. 1 pick in the 1975 draft. They used that pick on Thompson and the No. 3 pick on Marvin Webster. They were unable to sign either and ended up losing both to the Denver Nuggets of the ABA.