Who is Mychal Thompson?
Mychal Thompson is a Bahamian former basketball player who played in the power forward and center positions, first for the ‘University of Minnesota’ and then for the ‘Portland Trail Blazers,’ the ‘San Antonio Spurs,’ and the ‘Los Angeles Lakers’ of the ‘National Basketball Association’ (NBA). He was the number-one overall selection in the 1978 ‘NBA Draft’ and became a two-time ‘NBA’ champion with the ‘LA Lakers’ during their ‘Showtime’ era in the 1980s. He was one of the four overall top-picks in the ‘NBA Draft’ to play in a ‘Lakers’ dream team, the other three being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy. Mychal was often called "Sweet Bells" by fans and teammates, after Walt Bellamy, the legendary four-time ‘NBA All-Star’ nicknamed "Bells.” Thompson’s middle son, basketball superstar Klay Thompson, a three-time ‘NBA’ champion and five-time ‘NBA All-Star,’ is now regarded as one of the greatest shooters in the history of the game. After Klay’s near-season-ending injury during the 2019 ‘NBA Finals’ occurred, just before he became an unrestricted free agent, Thompson made public statements saying Klay had had “too much of a good thing going” and that he would remain with his only ‘NBA’ team that he had been with since his 2011 ‘Draft,’ the ‘Golden State Warriors.’ "Oh yeah, you can mark it down. Klay's going to retire in the Warriors' uniform," Thompson had told the ‘San Francisco Chronicle’ a year earlier, in August 2018, too. "He's going to be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years," he had added.
Childhood & Early Life
Mychal George Thompson was born on January 30, 1955, in Nassau, The Bahamas. His family moved to Miami, Florida, when he was a teenager.
He attended the ‘Miami Jackson Senior High School’ and acquired a passion for basketball. By the time he reached senior year in 1974, he was part of a starting line-up known as the “Jackson 5,” which featured him alongside three Bahamians and a Cuban.
The legendary “Jackson 5” steamrolled all opposition teams in the regular school season by an average lead of 30 points in each match, posting a 33–0 record and winning the ‘Class 4A’ state championship over their competitor, ‘Winter Park High School.’ However, four key players in the winning ‘Generals’ team, including Thompson himself, were later deemed ineligible on account of fabricated birth certificates.
He then attended the ‘University of Minnesota’ and scored a record 1,992 points from 96 games over four seasons, at an average of 10 rebounds and 20.8 points per game.
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The athlete, who stands tall at 6 feet 10 inches, was traded away by the ‘Indiana Pacers’ to the ‘Portland Trail Blazers’ on June 8, 1978, for Johnny Davis and a 1978 first-round draft pick. The following day, the ‘Blazers’ made him their “numero uno” selection in the 1978 ‘NBA Draft.’
This was the first time in the history of the league that a player who was not born in the US was made a first-round pick by an ‘NBA’ team. Thompson made his ‘NBA’ debut on October 15, 1978, and remained a fixture in the ‘Portland’ line-up for 8 long years, with the exception of one injury-ridden season. Statistically, his best season was 1981–1982, in which he averaged over 20 points and 11 rebounds per game.
On June 19, 1986, he was traded by the ‘Blazers,’ along with Larry Krystkowiak, to the ‘San Antonio Spurs,’ in exchange for center/forward Steve Johnson.
After only half a season with the ‘Spurs,’ Mychal was traded to the ‘Los Angeles Lakers’ for center/forward Frank Brickowski, center Pétur Guðmundsson, a 1987 first-round draft pick, and a 1990 second-round draft pick.
His February 1987 transfer to the ‘Lakers’ was meant to be a reinforcement for the ageing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a defensive counter against ‘Boston Celtics’ forward Kevin McHale. He carried out his duties apropos Abdul-Jabbar, and later Vlade Divac, quite capably. He thus provided ample support for power forward AC Green.
Mychal was largely a bench player for the ‘Lakers,’ but his defensive prowess proved instrumental in the team winning consecutive ‘NBA’ titles, in 1987 and 1988, and reaching the league finals in 1989.
He is the only player among the four first-draft picks in Pat Riley’s ‘Lakers’ squad to have not been inducted into the ‘Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’ or have his jersey number retired in honor of his service and contribution.
Thompson was waived by the ‘Lakers’ on October 2, 1991. His income by way of salary paid by ‘NBA’ teams over the last six seasons of his 12-year career is estimated to be around US $5,291,000.
Once his professional basketball career was over, Thompson relocated to Portland with his family in 1991. Following this, he took up work with local sports stations. He moved back to Los Angeles, however, to take up commentating for the ‘Lakers,’ in 2003. He worked with stalwarts such as Joel Meyers, Spero Dedes, and John Ireland.
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He was also a co-host on the radio show ‘Loose Cannons’ on ‘KLAC AM570,’ alongside Steve Hartman and Vic "the Brick" Jacobs. He switched to co-hosting ‘LA Sports Live’ on ‘KSPN AM710,’ with Andrew Siciliano, until the show got canceled on December 26, 2010.
Thompson has appeared as himself in some film and TV features over the years, such as ‘The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh’ (1979) and ‘Just Dad’ (2015). He will also appear in an upcoming documentary, ‘Four Square Miles to Glory.’
In a July 19, 2019 media report, Thompson claimed that while the ‘Brooklyn Nets’-bound Stephen Curry, the ‘NBA’ record-holder for most 3-pointers in a single season and the first-ever unanimous ‘Most Valuable Player’ (MVP) in league history for 2015–2016, would miss his “splash brother,” Klay, he could still have a record-breaking current season with 500-odd 3-pointers on his own.
Awards & Achievements
Besides winning the ‘NBA’ championship in 1987 and 1988, Thompson also secured a place on the 1979 ‘NBA All-Rookie First Team.’
He has won amateur honors such as the ‘NCAA Men's Basketball All-American’ consensus second-team (1977) and the ‘NCAA Men's Basketball All-American’ consensus first-team (1978) awards. The jersey number 43, which he wore, was marked retired by his alma mater, the ‘University of Minnesota.’
Among his many accolades are an ‘NBA Player of the Week’ award (won on November 8, 1981) and 21 ‘MVP Award’ shares between 1981 and 1982.
Mychal and Klay Thompson are not only the fourth father–son duo ever to have won their own ‘NBA titles,’ but they are also the second pair to have won two ‘NBA’ titles each, besides hall-of-famer Bill Walton and his son, Luke Walton. The Thompsons are the only duo ever to have both won their titles in consecutive years.
A documentary about Thompson's life, titled ‘The Trailblazer,’ was previewed at the ‘Regal Cinemas,’ Los Angeles, on November 21, 2013. The Mychal Thompson Boulevard, named in Thompson’s honor in 2015, is a street in Nassau, Bahamas, leading up to the ‘Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre.’
Family & Personal Life
Mychal met his wife, Julie, at the ‘University of Portland’ gym, while prepping for his second season with the ‘Blazers.’ Being an accomplished track athlete, a gymnast, and a university-level volleyball player herself, she was there for practice and stumbled onto Thompson’s pickup basketball game. “I saw her out of the corner of my eye,” Mychal once said. “I forgot about the game,” he added. The couple got married in 1987 and had three sons.
All three Thompson sons have grown up to become professional athletes and sportsmen. Besides Klay, their eldest son, Mychel Thompson Jr., has played six seasons in ‘NBA's ‘D-League’ (now known as the ‘G-League’). Their youngest son, Trayce, has been an outfielder for several ‘Major League Baseball’ (MLB) teams, including the ‘Chicago White Sox,’ the ‘Los Angeles Dodgers,’ and the ‘Cleveland Indians.’
In a 2013 interview given to ‘ESPN,’ Thompson revealed that while the ‘NBA’ had fined Klay $35,000 for a brawl during a ‘Warriors’ vs. ‘Pacers’ play-off, he had himself punished his son by docking his weekly allowance in a “bizarre but comforting tough-love approach” to discipline him. Klay was then earning between $2.3 and $3 million per season, but his parents, Mychal and Julie, had strict control over his finances and lifestyle.
Some people believed Mychal to be related to ‘NBA’ hall-of-famer David Thompson before he became well-known. After he ventured into professional basketball, Thompson once reportedly spoke about his interest in politics and his desire to become the prime minister of The Bahamas.