It was the best team in the history of ISPAL, and George Thompson was one of them
George Thompson of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Photo courtesy of Andy Furman
His legacy, easy.
He played on one of the greatest, if not the greatest, basketball teams in PSAL history. It was Erasmus Hall in 1965.
It was March 19e to be exact, and Dutch coach Bernie Kirsner’s team beat DeWitt Clinton – the perennial powerhouse of the Bronx – 85-80, in the Flatbush gymnasium. The win capped a perfect season at 22-0.
And that Erasmus team was led by All-City stars George Thompson, a 6-3 senior, and Coak Cannon, a 6-4 junior, and assisted by Carlton Screen, Oliver Shannon, Frank Payton, Sol McMillon and Bobby Lee.
Other team members included: Barnet Shulman, Hugh McMahon, Junior Stevens, Bobby Chalik, Ziggy Wade, Ronnie Tishkevich, Arnie Goldstein and Frank Chimielowski.
DeWitt Clinton’s team presented Luther Green, All-City Player of the Year. Thompson was dominant. Thompson was the man.
He led Erasmus with 22 points followed by Shannon with 16 and Cannon with 13 points respectively. Cannon grabbed 20 rebounds with Thompson’s 15 to secure the title for the city. Sadly, Coak Cannon, Oliver Shannon, Sol McMillion and Frank Payton passed away. Earlier this month, Thompson was added to the roster.
Marquette coach Al McGuire made Thompson his first signing New York rookie. It opened up the New York-Milwaukee pipeline that led to standout guards like Dean Meminger and Butch Lee.
“He (Thompson) was the same age as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and they were both superstars in New York. He was in public school and Lew Alcindor (as Abdul-Jabbar was then known) was in private school ( Power Memorial),” said Steve “Homer” True, who broadcast Marquette games alongside Thompson. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Thompson — who was known as the “Brute Force” — scored 1,773 points in three seasons for the then-Warriors from 1966-69. The NCAA did not allow freshmen to play in the league. university at the time of Thompson.
He led the program record until it was beaten by Jerel McNeal in 2009. Markus Howard now holds the United mark with 2,761 points.
Thompson played professional basketball for the Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors and Memphis Tams of the American Basketball Association from 1969-74 and finished his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1974-75 season. His No.24 jersey hangs in the rafters at the Fiserv Forum.
In fact, there was some controversy in 2006 when MU’s Lazar Hayward wore number 24 for three games, but changed to 32 after Thompson expressed his displeasure.
For 31 years, Thompson worked in communications for Briggs & Stratton and was the regular analyst for MU’s basketball radio and television broadcasts for 27 years.
“The biggest moment for me with him was when we beat Kentucky (to reach the Final Four in 2003) and Dwayne Wade came on,” True told the publication. “And they’re talking and George said, ‘You’re the greatest ever. Not only for what you have done, but also for what you will do.
“And it may not have meant anything to the others, but I never thought George would say that. It doesn’t matter, you could score twice as many points as him. He must have looked and seen and said that you were better than him. He said it and he was 100% right about everything Wade would do.
“It was always a special moment for me because I never thought we would ever hear it. Because I knew George was so good.
Thomson died of complications from diabetes, the school said. He was 74 years old. And yes – he played on the best – and he was the best.
Andy Furman is a national talk show host on Fox Sports Radio. Previously, he was a school sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He can be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR