This column originally appeared at SeattleWeekly.com
David Thompson was 29, had started in the NBA All-Star Game the season before, and should have been at the height of his SkyWalking powers when he took a literal fall from grace in 1984. During a melee with a nightclub employee, he rolled down the stairs at New York City’s famed Studio 54 and right out of professional basketball, his knee a wreck.
Many have argued that Thompson once was basketball’s greatest player, better than his contemporary, Julius Erving, and a precursor to high-flying NBA royalty such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Truth is, by the time the Seattle SuperSonics acquired him in 1982, Thompson was on the decline because of struggles with alcohol and cocaine. He’d sworn them both off, but such was their hold that he and five teammates, after playing a game in Philadelphia, took a cab from New Jersey to chase the high life in Manhattan.
That season was the first of many I spent covering the Sonics for The Seattle Times, so I remember it vividly. Which is why, in another lifetime and another sport, I hope Jack Zduriencik has a Plan B—not just in case the Seattle general manager doesn’t sign Josh Hamilton as a free agent for the baseball Mariners, but in case he does.