It was the best team in ISPAL history, and George Thompson was a part of it
His legacy, easy.
He played on one of the greatest, if not the greatest, basketball teams in PSAL history. That was Erasmus Hall in 1965.
It was March 19th to be exact, and Dutchman coach Bernie Kirsner’s squad beat DeWitt Clinton – the perennial Bronx powerhouse – 85-80, in the Flatbush gym. The win capped a perfect season at 22-0.
And that Erasmus team was led by All-City standouts 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 members of the squad included: Barnet Shulman, Hugh McMahon, Junior Stevens, Bobby Chalik, Ziggy Wade, Ronnie Tishkevich, Arnie Goldstein and Frank Chimielowski.
DeWitt Clinton team featured 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 along with Thompson’s 15 to secure the city title. Sadly, Coak Cannon, Oliver Shannon, Sol McMillion and Frank Payton have passed away. Earlier this month, Thompson was added to the list.
Marquette Coach Al McGuire made Thompson his first signature recruit from New York City. That opened the New York-to-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 the two superstars in New York City. He was at the public school and Lew Alcindor (as Abdul-Jabbar was known then) was at the private school (Power Memorial),” Steve “Homer” True, who broadcast Marquette games alongside Thompson, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Thompson – who was known as “Brute Force” – scored 1,773 points in three seasons for the then-Warriors from 1966-69. The NCAA did not allow freshmen to play on the varsity during Thompson’s era.
He led the program scoring record until it was broken by Jerel McNeal in 2009. Markus Howard now owns the MU mark with 2,761 points.
Thompson played pro basketball for the Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors and Memphis Tams of the American Basketball Association from 1969-74 and ended his career in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1974-75 season. His No. 24 jersey hangs in the rafters at Fiserv Forum.
In fact, there was some controversy in 2006 when MU’s Lazar Hayward wore No. 24 for three games, but he switched to 32 after Thompson expressed his displeasure.
For 31 years, Thompson worked in communications for Briggs & Stratton and was the regular analyst on MU basketball radio and television broadcasts for 27 years.
“The greatest moment for me with him was when we beat Kentucky (to reach the Final Four in 2003) and Dwayne Wade came over,” True told the publication. “And they’re talking and George said, ‘You’re the best ever. Not only for what you’ve done but what you will do.’
“And it may not have meant anything for other people, but I never thought George would every say that. It didn’t matter, you could score twice as many points as he did. He had to look and see and say that you were better than he was. He said it and he was 100% right in terms of how much Wade would do.”
“That was always a special moment for me because I never thought we’d ever hear it. Because I knew George was that good.”
Thomson died from complications of diabetes, the school announced. He was 74. And yes – he played on the best – and he was the best.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR
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