It would figure David Thompson and George Gervin are together again.
They had an epic final-day duel for the 1977-78 NBA scoring title, won by Gervin. They were both inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. And now they both will be presenters at Friday's Basketball Hall of Fame induction in Springfield, Mass.
Thompson will present Michael Jordan and Gervin will be one of two presenters for David Robinson.
"It's neat,'' Gervin said of being linked again with Thompson. "And I think it's tremendous that he's presenting Michael. They're two rival schools [Jordan having attended North Carolina and Thompson going to North Carolina State]. But David T. used to throw them down like Michael.''
Hall protocol calls for an inductee to choose an existing Hall member to be a presenter. Robinson, a former San Antonio star, chose Gervin, the first Spurs Hall of Famer and once Robinson's assistant coach in San Antonio, as well as Larry Brown, his first Spurs coach.
But here's where it got interesting. Jordan could have selected his former college coach at North Carolina, Dean Smith, or his coach with the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson. But he went with his boyhood idol.
"I heard about it a couple of months ago," said Thompson, who said he got a call in early July from a Hall of Fame official. "They asked me if I was willing to be a presenter for one of the inductees, and I said, 'Who?' They said, 'Michael Jordan.' I was kind of surprised because he went to North Carolina and I went to North Carolina State. But I'd known that Jordan had always felt I was an inspiration for him when he was growing up, and I was flattered."
Simply put, Thompson was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan. Sporting a 48-inch vertical leap, he led the Wolfpack to the 1974 NCAA title, when Jordan was 11 and growing up in Wilmington, N.C. Jordan continued to follow Thompson when he entered the ABA in 1975 and the NBA in 1976, becoming one of pro basketball's biggest stars before injuries and drug problems felled him in the early 1980s.
Thompson lives in Charlotte and goes to many Bobcats games, where Jordan is an executive and part owner. Thompson was to attend a Bobcats season-ticket function in July, but then wasn't able to make it. So Thompson instead sent former NBA player Bart Kofoed, who, along with Thompson and former NBA star Bobby Jones, is a co-founder of 2Xsalt, a non-profit Christian organization based in Charlotte.
"Bart said [Jordan] told him how he was an N.C. State fan growing up because of me," said Thompson, who has yet to speak with Jordan since learning he would be his presenter. "But he's said that before. When I was with the Charlotte Hornets [in the late 1980s and in the 1990s in community relations], we used talk to kids before the games. Michael, when he was in town [with the Bulls], would sometimes join us and tell the kids the same thing."
Thompson, whose last NBA season of 1983-84 was one year before Jordan entered the NBA, first met Jordan at the Final Four in Seattle in 1984. Thompson was with the SuperSonics and Jordan, whose Tar Heels had been stunned the previous week by Indiana in a regional semifinal, came to accept an award for College Player of the Year.
"My friend, Walter Bell, took a photo of us together," Thompson said. "When Michael was with the Wizards [finishing his career with Washington in 2003 after previously being a Wizards executive], Walter showed Michael the photo along with some other players. They got a kick out of it. Michael had hair then, and I was wearing a blue Armani leather suit."
Thompson, nicknamed "Skywalker," and Jordan are regarded as two of the greatest dunks ever. So who was better?
"We were both real creative," said Thompson, who then paused before saying, "It's Michael's week."
It's a week that also belongs to Robinson, one of the NBA's greatest centers, Stockton, the NBA's all-time assist leader, and to a pair of legendary coaches.
The Hall of Fame presenters will escort their inductees to the stage. Any remarks they make Friday will be brief.
But the Hall of Fame dispatched video crews during the summer to the homes of the presenters to get plenty of comments. The presenters will be seen Friday on a video board and on a television talking about the inductees.
"I was just so proud and honored when he asked me to be his presenter," said Gervin, who learned about it from the the Hall in mid-August, although he has yet to speak since then with Robinson. "I was the first Hall of Famer for the Spurs, and for him to want me to open the door and welcome him to the Hall of Fame, I'm touched. [Robinson] was a dominant big man, and he was probably the quickest big man on the floor I've seen."
Gervin, who has worked in community relations for the Spurs since retiring as a player in 1986, first met Robinson when he was drafted out of Navy in 1987 and the big man came to tour the city. Because Robinson, who had a two-year service commitment, could have gone back into the 1988 draft and snubbed the Spurs, it was a key visit. But Gervin played a role in helping convince Robinson that San Antonio was the place for him.
Gervin served as a Spurs assistant in the early 1990s, and regularly worked with Robinson on shooting drills. He was on the bench on the final day of the 1993-94 season when Robinson scored 71 points against the Los Angeles Clippers to end up nipping Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal in the third-closest scoring race ever.
That brought back some memories. On the final day of the 1977-78 season, Thompson scored 73 points for Denver in the afternoon in his quest to win the scoring crown. Knowing he needed 58 points to win, Gervin scored 63 for the Spurs in a night game to win 27.22 to 27.15 in the closest race ever.
"We have mutual respect for each other," Gervin said. "I call David the 'Giant Killer.' We were members of the same Hall of Fame class, and now [the two are both presenters Friday]."
Hall of Famers often come back to Springfield for induction ceremonies even when not serving as presenters. They consider themselves a fraternity.
OK, considering women are also in the Hall, it's also a sorority.
Few members of the Hall have a closer relationship than Stringer, now the coach at Rutgers, and Chaney, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 primarily due to his impressive 1982-2006 stint at Temple. Between 1972-82, the two were both coaches at tiny Cheyney State, a historically black school outside Philadelphia now known as Cheyney University.
"It's very special," Chaney said of presenting Stringer. "How many times are you going to have a coach for a men's basketball team and a coach from a women's basketball team that coached together for 10 years at a small school? [Stringer's induction] is long overdue."
Chaney likes how the Hall of Fame has an existing member serve as a presenter. It's unlike the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which allows an inductee to choose anybody.
"The tradition is kind of special because the inductee is probably very familiar with what the [presenter] accomplished," Chaney said. "It's admirable for Michael to make that choice [of Thompson], and to reach back. David was somebody who was the Michael Jordan of his era, and they're perhaps the best players in the history of the ACC."
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com.