Last night against the San Antonio Spurs, Jason Thompson played his 518th game as a member of the Sacramento Kings, tying Peja Stojakovic for the most games played for the Kings in the Sacramento-era. On Friday, Jason will surpass Peja and sit alone at the top of the recordbooks. How on earth did that happen?
(Time to rewind Sactown Royalty to the year 2008)
"With the 12th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select ... Jason Thompson from Rider University"
When the Kings picked Jason Thompson, fans were shocked. Thompson hadn't been on anyone's radar for the lottery. Kings fans had been clamoring for Jerryd Bayless and talking themselves into Anthony Randolph so when Thompson's name was called, disbelief and confusion reigned. Here was a rare (ha!) chance for the Kings to use a lottery pick and the Kings used it on a little known senior from a small school.
While Thompson never really lived up to lottery pick standards, he's still become a pretty good roleplayer in the NBA and that's despite being in perhaps the most chaotic organization of the last decade. Thompson joined the Kings at perhaps their lowest point in history. That 2008-09 season saw the Kings trade away the last vestige of their glory year teams (Brad Miller) and embark on a full scale rebuilding project that was forestalled by the fact that ownership didn't really want to build anything in the first place.
JT never got a real chance to develop. Over his 7 years he's seen 7 coaches, over 150 teammates, two near relocations of the team, an ownership change, multiple other big men brought in to play over him that don't succeed (J.J. Hickson, Carl Landry, Thomas Robinson to name a few), and an endless amount of losing. It's remarkable that Thompson has remained as positive and productive as he has in spite of it. We as fans have expressed an incredible amount of frustration with this team and organization this past decade, but Thompson has been even more deeply impacted by everything because he's been directly involved.
Jason Thompson gets a lot of flack because of what he isn't. He's not a star. He's not a stretch four. He's not a rim protector.
I think it's time to start focusing on what Jason Thompson is. He's a hard worker. He's a good defender. He's loyal. He's tough. You have to be to have survived these last seven years (and counting) in this city, with this team. Thompson's longevity is a tribute to these attributes.
Congrats on 519 games Jason. Hopefully you can get to experience what winning feels like sometime in the next 519, because few players deserve it more.