Posted On: 01/29/20 6:04 PM
ordan Thompson carefully tightened a pair of worn University Red Kobe A.D. NXTs as he stood near the entrance from the SaberCats’ locker room to the polished newborn hardwood in No. 1 Southmoore’s gymnasium. He waited for the cessation of the girls’ game.
“It was a shock at first,” said Thompson of Kobe Bryant’s death Sunday morning, “‘cause the night before, I was arguing with my friends about LeBron and Kobe and who’s the goat.
“Obviously, I’m a Kobe fan,” Thompson added, “it just makes me want to get in the gym harder.”
Thompson, averaging 20.2 PPG and 4.5 APG, took the floor ahead of the SaberCats’ Tuesday-night brawl with Edmond Santa Fe, where Southmoore stole the night by six points.
His tendencies and mannerisms resembled, mimicked Kobe Bryant; he faced up a teammate and hit a shot over his scalp during warm-ups; he hit a long-range 3-pointer out of the dribble that some only dream to attempt in a game. He prepared himself thoroughly before taking on the Wolves — his first game since Kobe’s death.
As any 90s or 00s kid would admit; he had aspirations to be like Kobe – a character deified among today’s generation of basketball fans. To most, he felt like the purest definition of the sport.
He admits, however, his striving for the Mamba Mentality does not always come to fruition.
“Sometimes,” Thompson said, “but sometimes I can get distracted, and that’s gonna take me to the next level, giving 100 percent.”
Even Bryant, however, drew inspiration from the imperfect Black Mamba, which could “strike with 99 percent accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession,” he infamously quoted.
. . .
Two-and-a-half years ago, I did not have this job. I had finished my senior year of high school and moved to Moore, where I was effectively nobody.
One of the first people I met, tearing apart the competition at the local gym, was a pre-sophomore-year Jordan Thompson.
The carrousel of whispers hurtled towards me seconds after I entered the gym.
“J.T. will probably start for Southmoore this year,” somebody said.
I felt some relief, knowing the guy ripping the rest of the gym apart wasn’t an average Joe and some skepticism at the then, generous 5-foot-8-inch 15-year-old.
I wonder if he’ll be much competition in 6A basketball.
I dismissed the thought as I watched him sink a shot from near half-court to game the match to 15.
Our paths over the next year would flirt sparingly. We were on a first-name basis as regulars at the public gymnasium in Moore, but little more.
I followed casually Thompson’s sophomore year as I was assigned the high school basketball beat in my first gig with The Edmond Sun. I saw the sophomore struggle while running the one-position against Deer Creek in the playoffs. I essentially wrote him off.
The summer following my freshman year, Prep Hoops hired me as a part-time writer for AAU. Our paths persistently frequented the following two club seasons.
Still, I had my reserves about Thompson’s skill. Could a 5-foot-10-inch point guard succeed at the highest level of Oklahoma High School basketball?
. . .
Following warm-ups, a horde of navy and gold jogged to the Southmoore bench.
Thompsons’ red Kobe’s, however, took a turn near half-court, taking a brisk walk towards Southmoore’s athletic director.
Thompson received his one-thousand-point ball, awarded to the senior point guard for eclipsing one-thousand career points three nights earlier on the road against Moore.
Thompson was the first in Southmoore’s relatively young athletic history to grace the thousand-point club.
“Leaving my mark at this school,” Thompson said, “bringing my kids back and saying ‘I scored a thousand points.”
J.T. proved me wrong.
The game commenced minutes later and, as if to remove his own inhibitors, Thompson came out firing.
He audaciously jacked a deep 3-pointer in movement in the second quarter, then did it again a minute later.
In the third quarter, he pumped, analyzing a defender on his heels before attacking. He lofted a spiraling shot from near the free-throw line.
Having exercised every other aspect of his talent, Thompson spent the final period amusing himself with the putting game.
He drove through traffic, magically maneuvering through the lane and manipulating the ball to tease defenders before finishing a right-handed lay-in above and through a pair of defenders, five and seven inches taller than him.
Believe it or not, it was a light game for Thompson, who finished with 16 points to lead all scorers. It’s no wonder the C.O.A.C., perhaps the most competitive conference in the state, named Thompson its Offensive M.V.P. after his junior season.
Even with a teammate signed to play Division-I basketball, Thompson felt like the fulcrum of Southmoore’s success.
However, Thompson has yet to announce his post-college plans. As speculation grows, Thompson sits now upon the hot seat, where the anticipation of a state full of spectators prepares its judgement; He is among the last players in the Oklahoma 2020 class with multiple scholarship offers — Oklahoma Baptist, Murray State, Arkansas-Fort Smith, etc. — to announce his commitment.
Thompson said, however, his only focus is leading the SaberCats to a Gold Ball.
“I’m just going to wait and make the right decision,” Thompson said, “and I’m really just trying to focus on my season and my team and winning the championship.”
Though he may refuse to ascribe his own credit, it’s clear that Thompson, at least recently, has had a little bit of Bryatnt’s Mamba Mentality.