N.C. State basketball plans to immortalize one of the best players in program and ACC history this winter, it announced Monday.
The program will unveil a statue of David Thompson at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 6 at Reynolds Coliseum. Fans are invited to attend, with more details to come later.
“This is such a deserved honor for the greatest basketball player to ever wear an N.C. State jersey,” N.C. State athletic director Boo Corrigan said in a statement. “He is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the ACC and our hope is that this statue will ensure that generations of N.C. State students and fans will always remember the legacy and contributions of David Thompson.”
This comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Wolfpack’s 1974 national championship and 30-1 season. The team advanced to the championship game after upsetting UCLA, the reigning title holders, in double overtime. N.C. State defeated Marquette, 76-64, to win it all at the Greensboro Coliseum.
That season included the 103-100 win over No. 4 Maryland in the ACC championship, dubbed one of the best games in college basketball history, to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
In his other two years, Thompson led the team to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1972-73, then the Pack went 22-6 in 1974-75. He averaged more than 24 points per game in each season, contributing 26 per game in the title year. He averaged 29.9 points per contest in his final year with the Wolfpack.
His career included ACC player of the year and consensus All-America honors in all three years with the Wolfpack. Plus, he won AP national player of the year twice – just one of five players to earn it multiple times – and USBWA player of the year in 1975.
Thompson and teammate Monte Towe are also credited with inventing the vertical game fans see today, earning his iconic nickname of “Skywalker”.
Bill Walton once called Thompson, “Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and LeBron James rolled into one,” while Larry Brown described him as, “Michael Jordan before there was a Michael Jordan.”
He remains the only player in program history to have his jersey number, 44, retired. Thompson ended his career with 2,309 points in 86 games, leading N.C. State and the ACC in career scoring upon his departure.
After finishing his career with the Wolfpack, the American Basketball Association (Virginia Squires) and National Basketball Association (Atlanta Hawks) both drafted Thompson No. 1 overall.
He ultimately signed with the Denver Nuggets, then with the ABA. His pro career featured ABA rookie of the year, an ABA All-Star MVP nod and second place finish in the first ever slam dunk competition in 1976. He added NBA All-Star and all-NBA First Team distinctions, as well.
Oh, and don’t forget Thompson scored 73 points in the Denver Nuggets’ game against the Detroit Pistons in 1978. That is tied at No. 4 for most points in a single NBA game. Wilt Chamberlain, who owns the single scoring record at 100 points, twice scored 73 points in one game.
Thompson was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (982), Naismith Memorial College Basketball Hall of Fame (1996), National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2006) and N.C. State Hall of Fame (2012).