Wilbon shares heartfelt message of what Thompson meant to him

© Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Besides his father and a couple of uncles, no man was more impactful on ESPN personality Michael Wilbon's adult life than former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr.

Thompson, who was in charge of the Hoyas for 27 seasons, leading them to three Final Four appearances and one NCAA Championship, passed away on Monday. He was 78.

Wilbon joined ESPN's First Take on Monday morning and delivered a heartfelt message, thanking Thompson for the tremendous impact he had on his life.

"I covered Georgetown basketball the year Patrick Ewing was being recruited by Thompson. I was 21 and had no idea what I was in for, to be around and cover and get to know him," Wilbon said. "Other than my father and maybe a couple of uncles, Big John was an impactful person on my life as an adult man other than my dad and a couple of uncles."


For Wilbon, it wasn't the typical things that came with being on the Georgetown basketball beat that stood out to him with the head coach. 

"He was everywhere in my own life in terms of what I believe about education, about sports, about basketball. I don't mean X’s and O’s," Wilbon said. "I mean sort of the day-to-day execution of what these things mean to our culture."

Thompson's death comes at a time where issues of social justice and racial equality are at the forefront of American society.


Throughout his tenure as Georgetown's head coach, Thompson -- the first Black head coach to win the NCAA Tournament -- never shied away from sharing his opinions about controversial societal issues.

"John didn’t care about talking about the day to day issues of basketball with matchups, who was an All-American, and who was better than whom," Wilbon continued. "But all the big issues, all the big, juicy issues that were controversial that were confronting us, he as always available to talk about them, how he felt about them himself and how he felt it would impact students, his students, players, the rest of the world."

Following the news of Thompson's death, his family released a statement honoring the legendary coach. They are hardly the only ones who will mourn the loss of Thompson.

"John was the most complex, fascinating, brilliant person I’ve covered. Courageous. I could apply those things to anyone I’ve ever known," Wilbon said. "It’s the world is not going to be as interest a place without John Thompson."

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