Family in Phoenix: David Thompson There for Cousin Gentry
PHOENIX -- If Lakers guard Kobe Bryant keeps going wild in the series, Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry always can motivate his players by telling them how he once slowed David Thompson.
Well, maybe not.
"Shut him down. I think I held him to 38,'' Gentry said with a laugh while standing next to the Hall of Famer before Sunday night's Game 3 of the Western Conference finals at US Airways Center.
Actually, Gentry and Thompson are first cousins and grew together in Shelby, N.C., even though they attended rival high schools. Thompson has come to Phoenix for Games 3 and 4 to support his kin.
Gentry's father, G.H. Gentry, who died last year, was the sister of Ida, Thompson's mother, who died about 10 years ago. Gentry and Thompson are both 54.
"We grew up together,'' Gentry said. "We've known each other our whole life. We went to the same church. We're very tight.''
Thompson said "Alvin is like a brother to me.'' The two played pickup basketball regularly, although they ended up going against each other when Gentry's Shelby High School met Thompson's Crest High School. Although Thompson, who went on to star at North Carolina State and in the ABA and NBA from 1975-84, is just four months older, he was two grades ahead of Gentry.
"Alvin was a secret weapon to guard me,'' Thompson said of facing Gentry in high school. "He was a real good ballplayer. I was hoping he would come to State, but we ran out of scholarships, and he ended up playing at Appalachian State. He was a good defensive player, a good guard who could shoot the ball.''
While Gentry joked Thompson put up 38 points on him, he did note that Thompson was two grades ahead of him.
"I was young,'' Gentry said of the 1970-71 game. "He was a senior. I was a sophomore. I didn't know the tricks I know now.''
Gentry is hoping some of those tricks soon will be used by his players. In losses in the first two games of the series, the Suns allowed an average of 126.0 points, with Bryant averaging 30.5.
Thompson, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., sends text messages to his cousin regularly. Sunday, though, marked the first Suns playoff game he has seen this spring in person.
"I was hoping they could play Denver in the playoffs,'' said Thompson, who starred for the Nuggets from 1975-82, appearing in one ABA and three NBA All-Star Games.
If that had been the case, which team would Thompson have backed?
"That would be tough,'' he said. "I couldn't lose. But I'd probably have to go with family.''
There were no doubts about Thompson's allegiances for Game 3. He wore orange shirt similar in color to what the Suns don.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson