THE  DAVID THOMPSON  PHENOMENON

Leap of faith

The story goes that, when he was at North Carolina State University, David Thompson was able to grab a quarter off the top of a backboard and leave two dimes and a nickel. (A backboard is a vertical board that a basket is attached to at each end of a basketball court. Its top is about 4m above the ground.) He says that the bit about the dimes and the nickel is an exaggeration, but it still must have been a pretty neat trick.

Of course, there's not much of a career to be made out of swiping coins from backboards, but the skills involved transfer very well to playing the game of basketball itself. After an enormously successful spell playing on the University's team, David Thompson started his professional career in 1976 with the Denver Nuggets before moving on to give the Seattle Supersonics the benefit of his exceptional point-scoring abilities. David Thompson's remarkable 44-inch vertical leap and extraordinary athletic skills earned him the nickname 'The Skywalker' and more awards than he could possibly know what to do with. He attained the status of a truly great sportsman, and was even Michael Jordan's childhood hero.

In 1978, David Thompson signed a record-breaking $4 million five-year contract. This was more than any basketball player had previously been paid. And, as he soon discovered to his cost, that sort of money can buy an awful lot of cocaine and alcohol. His addictions had an inevitable destructive effect on his career, eventually landing him in prison.

Serving time gave him the chance to reflect upon what he'd had and lost. With encouragement from the prison pastor, he became a committed Christian and put his life back in order. Having completely overcome the drug and alcohol addictions, David Thompson now devotes his time to working with young basketball players, helping them to aspire to his achievements and avoid his mistakes. His autobiography, Skywalker, charts the highs and lows of his eventful life.

Basketball Hall of Fame
All the impressive career statistics

The 700 Club
'The Skywalker' describes how his Christian faith turned his life around