Less memorabilia, more cash.
NBA legend David Thompson’s decision really was that simple. Fewer things to store or dust, more green, folding stuff to spend. And donate. And enjoy.
The cliché, of course, is that any former sports hero who looks to sell precious mementos from his playing days must be flat broke and down on his luck. Certainly, there have been examples of that among those who spent too freely, managed their athletic earnings poorly or got hit in the grill post-career by bad advice or worse luck.
But it isn’t the case for Oscar Robertson and Sam Jones, two other Hall of Fame legends, and it isn’t the case for Thompson either. All of them have made items available through SCP Auctions – as part of individual “collections” offered for bidding that ends Saturday – willfully, happily and driven by pragmatism rather than dire need.
“I’ve still got a lot of stuff from my N.C. State days,” said Thompson, the high-flier who played for the ABA and NBA Denver Nuggets and the Seattle SuperSonics in a pro career ended prematurely by injuries and drub abuse. “I’ve got a piece of the wood floor that was given to me when they retired my jersey. Also, I’m the only one to be MVP in the NBA and ABA All-Star games, so I’m keeping those trophies. As well as my Hall of Fame ring.
“I’ve still got enough around that I could do a couple more auctions if I wanted to.”
Thompson, 58, only dipped his toe in auction waters this time because some friends from his playing days had done so and were happy with the results.
“A lot of the other guys – like [George] Gervin and Bobby Jones and Julius [Erving], guys who played in my era – have been real successful and they thought the time would be right for me to put some of my stuff out.”
The stuff he has out there is fascinating: Forty-nine pieces in all, from an autographed scoresheet-plaque from his 73-point scoring outburst on April 9, 1978 (minimum bid: $100) to his 1974 NCAA championship ring (minimum: $5,000). As of Thursday evening, after 13 bids, the ring was up to $15,700.
Added together, it figures to be a nice payday for Thompson. But nothing to melodramatically save him and his loved ones from a steady diet of ramen noodles or anything.
“It’s been a long time since I got an NBA check,” he said. “But like most of the guys, I’m doing OK. I’m not making anywhere near what I did when I played. But I’m living within my means. We all can use money. We all have bills and whatever. Hopefully this will give me a little relief, and some can go to charity.”
Thompson works as a motivational speaker and makes appearances at sports camps. He receives an NBA pension, and he also does some youth ministry work “to help kids make the right choices, unlike some of the choices I made.”
He and his wife Cathy live in Charlotte, and they plan to make donations to the National Diabetes Association (Cathy lives with the disease) and to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Thompson, by the way, remains a relevant player to today’s NBA stars. Though he too often gets skipped over when experts trace the game’s above-the-rim history from Elgin Baylor through Erving and Michael Jordan to the current generation, Thompson played into the 1980s. He’s younger than Erving and he actually met some of these millennials.
“I’ve had an opportunity to speak with a lot of guys on their high school teams,” Thompson said. “Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Paul, different guys, Carmelo [Anthony], I talked to all those guys. LeBron James‘ team, when they came through North Carolina, he said he used to wear my throwback jersey. So hopefully, he might want to get the real high school jersey.”
Could be. Thompson’s autographed No. 33 jersey from 1969-71 at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., was fetching $3,993 as of Thursday evening.