Washington

Clinton Yates on John Thompson Jr.'s legacy

Washington
Georgetown Hoyas former head coach John Thompson Jr. (R) celebrates with Georgetown Hoyas center Bradley Hayes (42) after the Hoyas' game against the Syracuse Orange at Verizon Center. The Hoyas won 79-72.
© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Before Clinton Yates appeared on 106.7's The Sports Junkies on Monday morning following the tragic news of John Thompson Jr.'s passing, he tweeted some strong words about the legacy former legendary Georgetown basketball coach left behind. 

Yates then doubled down on his definitive take on the radio. 

"It's hard for me to really say that he was anything other than the most important Black man in the history of sports in the District of Columbia because the dude represented every single thing I was told to like and respect and like about sports," Yates said. "And he did it at the highest level. There's no higher compliment." 

Growing up a Black man from the District, Yates noticed the impact the "Hoya Paranoia" program had extended far beyond local basketball fans. Those iconic Georgetown sweatshirts became a staple not only to the Black community but for everyone who embraced the swagger of the success Hoyas hoops flaunted. 

"Everybody felt touched with him just existing and being around a program like that," Yates said. "The program is one of the most important programs in pop culture history in America, end of Story. And John Thompson is part of the reason. It's just really wild."

The Junkies crew explained they were also big fans of Thompson and the Georgetown basketball program, saying his legacy was imprinted on the white community as well. Still, Yates explained why that the fact that he rose the ranks - from being a star high school player in D.C. to backing up Bill Russell on the Celtics to his coaching career - mattered so much to a community hindered by so much. 

 

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"If you're Black, and you're a brother, and you have any connection to basketball and you're between the ages of 30 and 50, there's one basketball team you cared about in college. It's the Hoyas," said Yates. "That applied to a lot of Black America, not just D.C., and the fact that he was ours for me, I don't know man. It feels like someone in my family is lost." 

Yates' first introduction to sports fandom was with his father attending those Hoyas games, witnessing the large and intimidating presence on the sidelines that was hard to miss. 

"It's odd for me to even think of a world in which I came up in a world of basketball in which we own and we could do our way and could succeed doing at the highest levels," Yates said. "That is what 'Big John' represented.

"There's nothing that's gonna come out and change America the way that the empowerment he made young brothers feel to the basketball court ever again. I just really hope that people understand how important he was - really far beyond anything to do with the Big East."