Throwback Thursday: The Scottie Thompson Talk

This article originally appeared in SLAM 203

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After Fast and the Furious, comes The Future. Scottie Thompson is the kind of player you tell your kids about. Here’s how that’s most likely going to go

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez

Scottie Thompson is the type of basketball player you’d want to tell your kids about someday.

But how do you that? How exactly do you put into words the complexity of what Scottie Thompson does on the court? There’s no sweeping statement that could accurately describe the phenomenon.

“Scottie Thompson is the best point guard in the PBA?” No, because of two points: one, Jayson Castro. Two, Scottie Thompson doesn’t even own the starting point guard slot in his team–that’s a privilege that belongs to the second best point guard in the PBA, LA Tenorio.

How about: “Scottie Thompson is the best player on his team.” This depends on how you quantify “best player.” Is it the one who consistently takes the biggest shots of the game? Then that’s not Scottie Thompson (at least not yet). Scottie Thompson is the one who towers high for an offensive rebound unannounced, and–in one swift motion–gets the ball to the man who takes the biggest shots of the game.

“Scottie Thompson can score.” Yes. Yes, he can. He can score at will the way Terrence Romeo can score– minus the flash. But that doesn’t paint a complete picture of Scottie Thompson’s greatness. Aside from scoring, he can also bang bodies in the paint like Marc Pingris and make adult decisions like Jimmy Alapag.

“Scottie Thompson does everything.” Yes and no. Saying he does everything is a copout. If you’re into selling cars, you don’t just point at a sedan and tell a potential buyer, “It can get you everywhere.” Well, can it get said potential buyer to the moon? No, it cannot. Scottie Thompson can do a lot of things very, very well. But stuffing him in a box labeled “do-it-all” with all the other role players that came before him is a tad unfair to his skillset.

Scottie Thompson is above labels. In every play, he blurs the lines between star player and role player. He transcends nicknames. He is an elite unicorn. His signature moves include a textbook offensive rebound and a well-calculated drop pass to the open man. He is an anomaly. He is Neo, without the horrible sequels and confusing exposition from a verbose, humorless old man dressed like a 1950s spy whose only purpose is to further the plot.

A day will come when kids would ask about Scottie Thompson, and they would want to know why thousands are chanting his name. We all need to be better prepared for that event. We owe it to the children. Google may not have the answers they need to quench their thirsty souls.

Here’s a well-researched and purely scientific guide that may come in handy when that fateful day arrives, when you and your 8-year-old son sit down and have the inevitable and necessary: Scottie Thompson Talk. Good luck.

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“DAD, WHAT’S A SCOTTIE THOMPSON?”

Knew this day would come. Scottie Thompson is a professional basketball player on the most popular team in the PBA, which means he gets paid a ton of money for doing the thing that he is both good at and he loves the most.

“I LOVE POKÉMON GO.”

OK. Imagine being so good at Pokéballing exceptionally rare Pokémon in your school and in Southeast Asia, that you were given permission to do it for the rest of your life.

“SOUNDS AWESOME. CAN I WATCH CARTOONS NOW?”

Wait. Don’t you want to hear about how he got his name? Remember same time last year, when we had the talk about the Greatest Of All-Time? Scottie Thompson was named after his teammate.

“HAH. SO IF HE’S SO GOOD, THEN WHY WASN’T HE NAMED MICHAEL THOMPSON?”

Good question. Let me tell you a bit about Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen, the player Scottie Thompson was named after. Pippen was the best sidekick you could ask for because he contributes in every way possible to help the team.

“LIKE ROBIN?”

Uh, let’s stick to basketball on this one. If you need Pippen to carry the scoring load, he’ll do that. If you need him to set up a play, he’ll execute it to perfection. Scottie Thompson is very much like Scottie Pippen in that sense.

In a very important game in the playoffs against the defending champs San Miguel Beermen, Scottie Thompson had a chance to win the game for his team. He went hard to the baseline to draw the defense, then accurately threw a pass to an open teammate at the opposite side of the court. The teammate badly missed the game-winning try, but 6-foot-1 Scottie Thompson was there to legit out-rebound a 6-foot-6, 215-pound import to keep the ball alive. Twice. His efforts resulted to a well-choreographed game-winner courtesy of another teammate. Scottie Thompson’s stat line read: 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The last time a newbie did that in the PBA, you weren’t even born.

“A TRIPLE DOUBLE? YEAH, RIGHT. IS THIS LIKE THE TIME YOU TOLD ME A ‘MAN IN A RED SUIT’ SNEAKED IN THE HOUSE AND DROPPED GIFTS?”

Yes. It’s exactly like that. Scottie Thompson is a gift that keeps on giving. So giving, that in the crucial do-or-die game of that same series against the Beermen, he had to be told by his coach and teammates to take over offensively and be more selfish with the ball.

“SELFISH? BUT MOM SAID THAT’S A BAD THING.”

When you’re as good yet as gun-shy as Scottie Thompson, you’re allowed to be selfish sometimes. In the game that sent his team to the finals, he took the most shot attempts ever in his short professional career. He dropped 24 points, the most he ever scored in his career because he was egged on by his kuyas. He delivered a performance that can only be described in a word you kids use too much these days: lit.

The 2015-2016 season marked the end of Ginebra’s three-year curse of missing the PBA Finals. It was also Scottie Thompson’s first year as a pro. Make no mistake about it: that is not a coincidence.

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“I’M STARTING TO LIKE THIS GUY. CAN I CALL HIM SCOTTIE?”

Of course you can. Call him Scottie. Call him Mr. Quality Minutes. Call him Mr. Triple Double. Call him the Human Swiss Army Knife.

“KNIVES ARE DANGEROUS.”

Yes, but that’s another thing that makes Scottie so great. He doesn’t look dangerous at all. There’s no mean mugging after a spectacular play. There’s no trash talk. When he was drafted fifth overall in the 2015 PBA Draft, you know what he said in his trademark timid, shaking voice? “I’ll give my best lang para sa team at sa crowd. Sana hindi ko sila mabigo at makatulong ako sa team.”

You think he’s an average freshman then–BOOM!–All-Star starter. His shy demeanor doesn’t fit the profile of an NCAA Most Valuable Player or a SEABA gold medalist. He makes Larry Fonacier The Baby-Faced Assassin look like Larry Fonacier The Old-Faced Assassin.

*YAWNS

You should also know how much pressure he’s in for being part of Barangay Ginebra. Remember when your friend Brian almost pissed his shorts in front of the whole school at the spelling bee finals? Multiply that by 100 and that’s how playing for the always passionate yet sometimes unforgiving Ginebra crowd must feel like for 24-year-old Scottie. Except that Scottie doesn’t piss his shorts like poor Brian: he puts defenders in the spin cycle, hangs in the air a bit, and then lays it in beautifully. He also leads his team in rebounds. Having Scottie on your squad is a disadvantage to the opposing side. It’s that simple.

“SO IT’S LIKE HAVING THE HULK?”

Exactly. See, Ginebra has a very, very rich history in the PBA. The team became super famous in the 1980s thanks to one of the biggest icons of Philippine basketball, Robert Jaworski. You’ll hear more about him as you grow older, that’s for sure. There was this one game when Jaworski had to get stitches on his lips mid-game after he was hit by a wayward elbow. He returned to the game in the closing minutes with Ginebra down 15 points, and sparked a comeback to will his team to victory. That was the moment the “never say die” spirit came into existence. Jaworski is now known as the “Living Legend.” He eventually became senator. His son was a congressman. His grandchildren will be running for public office someday.

Scottie had a similar “never say die” moment in 2015. With Ginebra down 22 points against the bad guys, “Scottie and the rest of the guys,” as the TV announcer put it, chipped away at the deficit and mounted a monumental comeback to win the game by a point. Ginebra’s game-winning points came from two piss-in-the-shorts, pressure-packed free throws from–who else?–Scottie Thompson.

After the game, this is what the Best Player of the Game said: “Gusto ko lang bumaba ‘yung lamang…at the end of the game baka makahabol pa kami. So ‘yun nga ang nangyari. Sabi ni Coach Tim, kahit manalo kami ng one point, okay lang. Hayun, nanalo kami ng one point, so thank you kay God.” Of course, this is all before the customary: “Pwedeng bumati?”

“DAD, THIS IS SUCH A LOOONG STORY. I’M GETTING BORED.”

Did I mention that Scottie is playing for the PBA’s winningest coach, Tim Cone? He was never supposed to coach Ginebra, but there he was on draft day, sporting a beaming smile as his prized rookie put on a white, oversized Ginebra jacket.

“I think Scottie has the chance to be special,” Cone said in August 2015. After Scottie’s debut (5 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds) in October that same year, Cone said “he was phenomenal.” Less than a year after that, Cone called him “the future of the franchise.” The weight of Cone’s words is the basketball equivalent of your homeroom teacher saying you can handle “two times two equals what” quizzes at the start of the school year and then trusting that you can compose essays that delve on the theory of relativity.

Cone is not known for fielding rookies in the starting lineup, but Scottie has earned the trust and respect of his legend coach so much that not only is he starting, he is also closing big games.

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“BUT I’M JUST A KID. WHY SHOULD I CARE?”

A number of reasons. Listen, Scottie is more than just a talented athlete. He’s a real-life superhero whose attributes include self-determination and humility. Before he joined the big league, Scottie was asked to give a one-word pitch to convince teams to pick him in the draft. His reply: “Siguro hard work.” That’s three words. Even in interviews, the Perpetual Help standout overdelivers.

Whenever Scottie is talking on cam, his litany consists of praises for his mentors in Ginebra, Kuya LA, Kuya Mark, Kuya Sol, Kuya Jayjay. He thanks God. He also never fails to send love to his family back home in Davao del Sur, where he put up the first basketball-themed barbershop in the province, Thompson’s Sports Hair Shop. You can learn a lot from Scottie the basketball player, the entrepreneur, the person.

“CAN YOU WRAP IT UP PLEASE? ADVENTURE TIME’S ABOUT TO START.”

If you browse through his Instagram account (It’s set to public–absolutely not stalking, definitely not creepy), you’d find a recurring set of photos that tell the pattern of a life well lived: sneakers, family, workout, girlfriend. The well-curated theme of #blessed posts is dotted by the occasional teleserye post. You see Scottie, as he revealed in one of his interviews, is a self-confessed teleserye junkie. “Mahilig ako sa teleserye dahil sa mommy ko…nahawa ako,” he said.

In the same interview, Scottie also expressed willingness to appear in a TV show someday. If and when Scottie does make the jump to acting, he should do a movie where he plays the charming leading man, the older brother, the grumpy father, the loopy mother, the foul-mouthed grandma, and the obnoxious kontrabida. Think of it like a slightly less funny yet meaningful Pinoy version of The Nutty Professor. Because just like Eddie Murphy, Scottie Thompson has the talent to carry the whole franchise.

“DAD, WHAT’S AN EDDIE MURPHY?”

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