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But for me, the singularly most astonishing game I ever saw was a regular season ABA (American Basketball Association) game played toward the end of the season in early 1976.  It featured the NY Nets playing at home in Nassau Coliseum in Long Island against the Denver Nuggets.

The game featured two of the most exciting simply mesmerizing basketball players of all time:  Dr. J, Julius Erving for the Nets and David Thompson for the Nuggets.  Most know of Dr. J.  He was Lebron, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant before any of them.   The slam dunking leaping flying arm swinging, ball palming, master of basketball.   Basically in those days Dr J, played entire seasons for the Nets in a manner that Lebron James did in the past NBA championships.  He did everything: scored, rebounded, played defense, fed his teammates.   He did not sell popcorn in the stands.

Do you recall David Thompson, the SkyWalker.   Michael Jordan had David Thompson introduce him to the Hall of Fame, Thompson was his inspiration.  David Thompson was one of the all time leapers in basketball history.   He is noted as one of the greatest college players of all time, in 3 years being an all American each year, leading his team to an undefeated season (they were banned from the NCAA's) and then an NCAA championship dethroning one of the great Bill Walton UCLA teams.

There is a lot of conversation about the best leapers in basketball.  I think Thompson tops the lists.  He could soar ALL THE TIME...and he did.  It wasn't occasional.  It was all the time, on offense and defense, seemingly effortless.   Reportedly his vertical leap was 44".   But he did it ALL THE TIME, countless times in a game.

Here is how the game went.   At the start, Dr. J, was at his best.  He kept attacking the basket in the first quarter, from left side, right side, down the middle.   Scintillating powerful Dr. J dunks with his huge hands palming the ball, waving it a bit, splitting defenders and pounding the ball through the basket.  Nobody did what Dr. J did.

Then the game started to turn.  It was defense from the Denver squad and the defense was provided by the SkyWalker.   The Nets would shoot a mid range jumper and one Denver player would launch above everyone else on the floor and swat that shot away.  Again and again.  It was always David Thompson.   It was as if a rocket kept getting launched from inside the box.

Then Thompson started to score.  His style was different from Dr. J's, not quite as breathtaking but astonishing every time he launched from the ground for either a jump shot or a drive and dunk.

And then the two superstars REALLY started getting competitive.   From that point forward they actually raised the levels of their games.   Thompson would score with a spectacular high flying shot.   J would match it.   Back and forth.  Two of the most athletic humans in the world each raising their level to match the other.

Both teams were good with good players.   The Nets won the ABA that year, and Denver had the best regular season record.  In the following year that Denver team played in the NBA and won its division.   These teams had excellent players.    But David  Thompson and Dr. J put on one of the most non stop purely athletic exhibitions of non stop athletic basketball skill I've ever witnessed.  In fact the best.

It wasn't a memorable or noteworthy championship game. ..but it should have been.  What an exhibition.

David Thompson was at NC State right around the time when I became a sports fanatic. My uncle was a professor at the University of Maryland, and my aunt was Assistant Superintendent of schools in Howard County - bottom line: free season tickets to University of Maryland basketball games for several years, dating all the way back to the Jim O'Brien years and continuing through their "three-guard offense" years (remember that?). At my age, Thompson, by sheer reputation and from the couple of times I saw him play in college, was essentially a space alien. I didn't really follow pro basketball back then, so Thompson, to me, was the best player in the world.

Only Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant have scored more points than David Thompson in one NBA game.

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