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REQUIRED READING: Thompson Autobiography ‘I Came As A Shadow’ Out Now

Co-author Jesse Washington’s media tour gives fans a glimpse of how packed the book may actually be

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Patrick Ewing and John Thompson Laughing at News Conference

It’s simultaneously been only a few months and a lifetime since the Georgetown Hoyas and the world lost John Thompson Jr. Since late August, many stories and tributes have been shared about the larger-than-life legend and his accomplishments on and off the court.

Now, with the release of Thompson’s autobiography ‘I Came As A Shadow,’ co-written with Jesse Washington, fans of Georgetown and the sport of basketball can hear Thompson’s story in his own words.

To promote the book, Washington has been making several appearances and teasing with Thompson factoids and lessons.

Here are some links to conversations and reviews:

In His Autobiography, the College Basketball Giant John Thompson Is Plainspoken and Profound | NYTIMES

This book is about Thompson’s own shadows, ones he was sorry to cast. As a large, dark-skinned Black man coming of age in the 1950s and ’60s, he felt sorely underestimated — he sensed that white America instinctively considered him inelegant and unintellectual. Later, when he began to win as a college basketball coach, the nature of that shadow changed. Suddenly he was viewed as a fearsome intimidator and a bully, designations he deplored but learned to use because they gave him a competitive edge.

If you followed college basketball in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, you’re aware of the reputation of the Georgetown Hoyas. (The team won an NCAA championship in 1984.) They were thought to play rough. They were a team many loved to hate.

“Bands in opposing arenas,” Thompson writes, “played the Darth Vader theme music when I walked by.” Thompson considers that reputation overblown and deeply racist. People weren’t used to seeing a big Black man yell, or Black players who would not back down. When his star center Patrick Ewing retaliated after being consistently fouled, Thompson writes, “a whole bunch of people who never played the game saw a Black team defending itself and called us thugs.”

John Thompson shares memories from iconic career in posthumously published autobiography | PHILLYTRIB

Prior to Iverson’s college career at Georgetown, the book mentions him playing summer basketball his freshman year in the 1994 Jabbo Kenner League. It was a league that a lot of Georgetown players regularly participated in during the summer months. Iverson was a big attraction down there. The were huge crowds to watch him play. In fact, he scored 40 points in his first game. The fans knew Iverson was going to be a special player...

Every chapter will bring back a lot of great basketball memories from Thompson’s coaching days along with his playing career, his family ties, the people who inspired him and others. Washington pens a brilliant note as the co-author. Thompson follows with a strong introduction.


The renowned Georgetown basketball coach looks back on a long career, interlaced with thoughts on the challenges of being Black in America. Coach Thompson, writes co-author and ESPN correspondent Washington, is a masterful student of “the game behind the game,” both the intellectual challenges of the court and the psychological factors that influence and sometimes impede players. Basketball, Thompson adds, “became a vehicle for me to challenge injustices.”

In ‘I Came As A Shadow,’ Georgetown’s John Thompson Offers Some Surprising Moments | NPR.ORG

In his new autobiography, I Came As A Shadow, John Thompson, along with writer Jesse Washington of ESPN’s The Undefeated, gives us a 352-page opus on a man with few regrets — and lamenting little. Thompson doesn’t apologize for writing a book that, as much as possible, isn’t about basketball...

“I think people were surprised to hear the human side of the big scary guy who supposedly hated the media,” Thompson writes. “People learned that I like telling jokes and laughing, that I cared about the rights of women, that I like the country musician George Strait. They found out I didn’t hate white people. I enjoyed blowing up a lot of the assumptions people had about me.”

While I haven’t read it yet, I’ve certainly reviewed the Table of Contents and index on Amazon’s look inside and I’m dying to carve out some time.

Of course, I’m expecting to read this one a couple times, knowing how chocked full of insight Thompson and Washington’s sentences can be.