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I Came As a Shadow: An Autobiography

4.57  ·  Rating details ·  537 ratings  ·  114 reviews
The long-awaited autobiography from Georgetown University's legendary coach, whose life on and off the basketball court threw America's unresolved struggle with racial justice into sharp relief.

John Thompson was never just a basketball coach and I Came As A Shadow is categorically not just a basketball autobiography.

After three decades at the center of race and sports in A
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 15th 2020 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Tyrone Umrani
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating and introspective look into the life of legendary coach, John Thompson. There is some of what you'd expect - basketball tales from his career a player and coach, but so much more. It is a slice of Washington, DC history, social commentary, an insider's view of inter-collegiate sports, and most interesting, a family story. I finished it in a day and a half. ...more
Josh Brynildsen
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
When I was 11, 12, or 13 I got to be one of the rich white boys who had the opportunity to be smoked by the best basketball prospects in the country at John Thompson’s Basketball Camp at Georgetown University. (My mother had worked in an office at Georgetown before I was born and still had friends there ... I had connections).

Upon registration each attendee got to meet Thompson and have a moment to chat one-on-one. I shook his hand. He shook my arm.

At the opening lecture he asked for everyone w
Diana Flores
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
So beautiful, inspirational and raw. Cry a few times 😭
John Spiller
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
John Thompson was a larger than life figure, both literally and figuratively. He was the first Black coach to win a NCAA Division 1 National Championship in college basketball. He was also a vocal advocate for the interests of Black athletes, willing to stick his neck out while others mouthed bland platitudes.

In "I Came As a Shadow," John Thompson tells his story in a fairly straightforward conversational style. While basketball plays a large role in this book, this is not a strictly sports sto
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Not surprisingly, much of this book is about college basketball. I enjoyed reading about coaches and players whose names I recognized, many of whom I have seen on the court, and reading about coaching from an insider. Coach Thompson's story --- particularly how he grew up in the projects in DC --- and his reasoning for his unique approach to coaching (emphasizing life lessons and academics to his players) were compelling. What I found particularly interesting, however, was Coach Thompson's descr ...more
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Lot of good memories and I'm pleased John Thompson opened up enough to share them. I was a big Georgetown fan back in the day, and this book helped me smile on my walk down memory lane. Thompson takes us deep into his mind and the shaping of his life philosophy, which he continually reminds the reader was more teaching than coaching. He really saw the basketball court as his classroom. He was adamant about being known as an intellectual, one who uses his mind, as opposed to just being a good Coa ...more
Chelsea Craig
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
My friend sent me this book on accident and I’m really glad he did! Thompson has left a strong legacy in the world of collegiate athletics, and the sport of basketball as a whole. Having worked in Higher Education, I loved seeing how he approached coaching his players, and helping them grow in the individual ways the players needed.
More importantly, Thompson spoke against the racial inequality and overt racism that exists in collegiate recruiting and collegiate athletics. I learned so much, and
Bill Bride
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I grew up a Maryland Basketball fan but as a kid in 1978-80 I'd take a metro bus down Wisconsin and M Street and walk to McDonough Arena and catch the Hoyas. I became a fan and followed Coach and the Hoyas. This is a great autobiography and I learned so much about Coach Thompson. He really kept his guard up throughout his career so it was great he opened up in this book. Highly recommend this book. Jesse Washington did an outstanding job with this. ...more
Feb 10, 2021 rated it liked it
The book has a lot of subjects .The reality of Racism, Power of Education and the power of standing by your beliefs.

John Thompson was a good man who stood by his principles, his student athletes and his school.
He had a strong base. Parents who taught him to watch and listen in order to learn what was real and could be changed.

It also made it more enjoyable to have knowledge of college basketball!
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to this memoir as a an alum of Georgetown, where, during my time as a student, the legacy of John Thompson and potential sightings of him on Campus was always exciting. And while this book describes pivotal moments and players in Georgetown basketball history, it is about so much more. I learned about JT2 the educator, the native son of WDC, and the brave, outspoken person who was not afraid to call a spade a spade. I learned more about racism in this memoir than perhaps any other bo ...more
Joe Waring
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books about sports I have ever read! Puts the real value of sport into perspective.
Thomas Begley
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I decided to read “I Came As A Shadow” as I am an alumni Georgetown and avid fan who was fortunate to attend college and law school as well as live in DC from 1980-1990 during its golden era. Yet I was overwhelmed by Coach Thompson’s autobiography. Thoughtful and poignant. His accomplishments as a coach are well known, yet his impact on so many lives is incredible. A life well lived and then some. It is not only a must read for Georgetown alums but for anyone who seeks to understand and
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He came as a shadow, but left his mark in DC history.

Great book! I loved it!

John Thompson came as a shadow. He arrived quietly on the scene and gradually became visible to all. In this book, John talks about more than basketball but about life itself. He is transparent about his personal feelings about his decision-making whether they were good or bad. He spoke not only about racism in sports but in this country. Sadly, racism is still an issue today. Yet, John teaches us how we can beat the od
Priscilla Herrington
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am not really a sports fan. But I have two sons and four grandsons and they are all basketball fans. When my sons were growing up they played and they and their Dad were Georgetown fans and so I, too, became a fan. I came to admire John Thompson not because he was a winning basketball coach but because he seemed to really care about his players, both on and off the court. One of my sons attended his summer basketball camp at Georgetown for two summers and I liked everything I heard about this ...more
Rob Warner
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Iconic basketball coach who made trmendous contributions to college basketball, race relations, and culture. I was never a Georgetown fan, but held a healthy respect for their program. I remember the games he talks about in this book well, reliving those clashes from back in the day. Just learning where Patrick Ewing's t-shirt habit came from, and what happened with Michael Graham, were worth the price of the book. It was also gratifying to read that, just as I remembered it, Michael Graham was ...more
Marty Monforte
Apr 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
John Thompson’s autobiography is a good reflection of his life and career. He discusses the strong impact his parents made on his life; his basketball career; the challenges he had to overcome; the way that he built the Georgetown basketball program; his philosophy of coaching and teaching and other aspects of his life.

He admired and respected his parents. They worked hard as they raised their four children. He admired the sacrifices that they made. He grew up in poor conditions in Washington, D
Ken Heard
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
On first read, it seemed everything was racial to John Thompson. But then, on a deeper level, it was. From his hiring at Georgetown, to his quota-issued recruitment of black players, to his Washington DC upbringing, to his aggressive coaching style and his creation of the Hoya Paranoia, to even his large size, he was constantly judged because of his color.

Thompson shows reasons for his anger and his ways of pointing it out to those who wronged him. He used his power in coaching and his status to
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies/autobiographies I've ever read and not just of sports personalities. This brought back many great memories as I graduated from Georgetown and was there when the Hoyas were a dominant force in college basketball and popular culture. I remember passing John Thompson one day on the stairs in the gym- he remains the largest human being I ever saw. The book really explains the reality behind the myth of Thompson. He was often pilloried by journalists who criticized his rec ...more
Barry Smirnoff
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Then history of Georgetown Basketball

This is John Thompson ‘s testament and settles all of his complaints with his critics. I am an alumnus of Georgetown and have been a big fan of Thompson ‘s role for close to 50 years. Georgetown has been a very selective school that has always been peopled with the cream of Catholic students, the vast majority of whom are White and Irish from the northeast. Thompson is responsible for transforming the school in many ways. Today, many people think of it as be
Stephen Mullins
Mar 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this book up not knowing anything about John Thompson or Georgetown basketball in general. It's a really enlightening piece of work that was well written for showing the trials and troubles John went through in his upbringing, pro career and coaching at Georgetown. I quickly got a real sense for who John was as a person, his values and what he fought for throughout his life. He's someone who set out to change lives through basketball and coaching. He's one of the good ones; he wanted to ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a diehard Georgetown basketball fan, I was excited to read this to hear John Thompson’s perspective in his own words. Big John did more than just about anyone to make Georgetown what it is today, both on the court and as a national name in education, and it was unfortunate timing that the book was published right around when he passed away. I enjoyed learning more about his upbringing and his path to becoming a coach, and hearing his perspective about the challenges he and the team faced at G ...more
Beth Amorosi
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“I Came as a Shadow” is a fantastic book by the acclaimed basketball coach from my alma mater @georgetownuniversity, John Thompson. Coach Thompson shares his experiences as an educator & coach with acute attention to detail & inspiring words of wisdom for life. He talks about his decision making process & life philosophy/response to everything based upon heredity, environment & time. He was a true hero of fighting for what is right, particularly when it came to the fight for racial equality & ju ...more
Travis Standley
Apr 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-reads
I enjoyed this book written by the author himself. My memories of John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas are few and this book illustrates the drive of a black man who was raised in segregated Washington DC and who overcame many challenges and barriers of prejudice. Sad really. Sad that this country has faced these issues for longer than we like to admit. I appreciate the irony of John Thompson, a black man, being hired as the head coach of an all white school in the 70s. Georgetown itself is an ...more
Paul Miller
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas were always great rivals to us Dukies - super competitive on the court but seeming to represent the opposite of everything we stood for. (We still savor the memory of Phil Henderson dunking over Alonzo Mourning.) His autobiography feels very honest and reveals a much more complex story. Yes, he made everything about race BUT he wasn’t trying to save all young men just those who could dunk or shoot; he was under such scrutiny by the NCAA that he couldn’t pay ...more
Tim McLean
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Tim by: Self-discovered, on Amazon.
Outstanding and Highly Inspirational!

This instantly became one of my all-time favorite books. I especially appreciate John Thompson's extreme candor and willingness to fully address issues - that could've/could damage(d) his reputation - for the greater good. Prior to reading this book, I didn't realize how many proverbial doors he'd broken down or how accomplished he was throughout his life. In addition to appreciating his many basketball accomplishments, I was inspired to learn about his activ
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by goodreads so I decided to give it a try as I was in need of a new book to read anyway. I read a description of this book and was realized it was right up my ally. This book did not disappoint. This book was very motivating to me. In addition, I am co-founder of the Teens for Equality club here at Lake Highland so I am very involved and educated about the Black Lives Matter Movement. This book highlighted how important it was for a African American coach to win ...more
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely Enjoyed This Book! Coach Thompson was always my favorite college coach....I love his candor. Coach takes you on an 11 ride talking about life and how education and basketball help shape his life....he talks about the importance of education and how he learned that at an early age from his parents. He talked about his short NBA career and how after leaving the NBA, returning to graduate school for his advance degree....Coach Thompson is definitely one of coaches with the most wins an ...more
Apr 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I grew up watching Big East basketball as a Pitt fan, so I knew all about Georgetown and John Thompson. I heard in real time all of the adjectives that were used to describe the Hoyas, and while I knew about the overt racism that was thrown at Coach Thompson and the team, I wasn’t aware of the undertones that were just as racist and systemic until I was an adult. As we work more fervently to take down systemic racism and white supremacy, this is a much needed book to remind us that racism isn’t ...more
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So. Freaking. Good.

I am a huge Georgetown fan, so this was pretty much required reading for me in that respect. However, the amazing story and the importance of understanding the racial undertones of John Thompson's tremendous career made this a page turner and I burned through this book fast. Understanding the upbringing that would affect Thompson's relationships and coaching style (on and off the court) as well as dispelling some of the myths of his legend over the years was great. I wanted to
Mar 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I love basketball and have admired John Thompson for many years. I was delighted to find this book and enjoyed reading it on multiple levels.
I enjoyed reading about the players that came through Georgetown University, the games, seasons and more specifically how Coach Thompson built the program and his underlining concern for the players.
I enjoyed his humor, his honesty and revelations of the inside workings of a college program.
The strongest and most important thing I brought away from this bo
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John Robert Thompson Jr. (September 2, 1941 – August 30, 2020) was an American college basketball coach for the Georgetown Hoyas men's team. He became the first African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship in basketball when he led the Hoyas to the NCAA Division I national championship in 1984. Thompson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Natio ...more

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