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The Sactown Greatest, #15: LaSalle Thompson

(This is the second piece in our series, The Sactown Greatest, which documents our picks for the best Kings in Sacramento history. Bobby Jackson was #16.)

I'd love to jump right in and explain why I love Lasalle "Tank" Thompson, but I assume a lot of the regulars here will be too busy screaming blasphemy to read it.

So I'll start with answers as to why The Tank places over BoJax:

  1. Tank was dependable. BoJax, through no fault of his season, was not. Jackson was in town one extra season, but the guys played about the same number of games. You could always count on Tank being in the lineup.
  2. Thompson was a bright spot amid relative darkness. Jackson wasn't unique in his greatness while in town - Peja, Webber, Bibby, Christie, and Divac all shone brighter. Only Reggie Theus was more valuable in those early Sactown days than The Tank. Again - no fault of Jackson. But it still counts.
  3. The elephant in the room is the Kansas City Kings era. Several of Sactown's favorite players were studs in KC, and slowly deteriorated in Sacramento. While I don't want to make an all-time franchise list because I know little to no pre-1983ish Kings history, I don't want to penalize Sacramento Kings that were originally Kansas City Kings. It's a fine line, and two or three early-era Sacramento Kings are benefitting from my judgment. Tank is one of them.
There. Now, I feel like I can go into my reasons why Tank Thompson is the #15 greatest Sacramento King:
  1. Talent-wise, he's one of the top three true centers Sacramento's ever had. He was solid defender, a terrific rebounder, and didn't embarass himself around the rim. Lots of teams would love to have a guy like that.
  2. His nickname is "Tank." You can't beat that. Seriously. CWebb? MB10? The Rock? Never Nervous? Are you kidding me? Easily one of the best simple 1980s/90s nicknames in basketball.
  3. He's become a miniature Magic Johnson in Northern California. Car dealerships, hotrod shops, radio shows, broadcasting - the guy has been everywhere since the late 1990s. He's like a Harold Pressley who was actually good!
  4. His appearances alongside Jim Kozimor this season on Comcast SportsNet were definitely worth the price of admission. What's better - watching LaSalle trying to build his case by throwing out completely random statistics he's reading off the box score in his hands, or waiting for the camera to cut going into a commercial break with the most uneasy of smiles? I really can't decide.
  5. This story from 2001, about Tank's exploits as an ABA head coach and general manager, really says it all. It is absolutely a must-read. If I ever score an interview with Tank, the San Diego WildFire is the only topic that will come up.

Oh, you want real reasons? Sorry.

Well, Tank averaged 15 and 9 in 1989 on less than 30 minutes a game. Seriously impressive stuff. (Impressive enough to get traded for Wayman Tisdale.) For his Sacramento career, it was 11 and 8 with a solid field goal percentage. He fouled way too much, but what 300-pound center doesn't?

Tank wasn't a guy who was ever in a position to call for the ball, and he didn't. You almost wonder how things could have been if LaSalle came along during Duane Causwell's time. Richmond could've used a Tank. And you can't tell me Ron-Ron and Reef wouldn't love a Thompson right now, as great as Brad Miller is. I mean, Tank would be making $8 million a year in today's market, right?

His memory suffers in Sacramento because he was on such a sorry team so long ago. But he's not someone who will let us forget about him - just keep watching local T.V.; you're bound to see him eventually.