Oct. 26, 2012
WASHINGTON - Upon walking into the new Nike Georgetown superstore, which held its grand opening on Thursday morning, visitors will see the phrase that defined John Thompson Jr. and his Hoya teams - "Don't let the sum total of your existence be 8-10 pounds of air."
It was a phrase, which Thompson said time and time again to his players, that guided the coaches and staff as they built Georgetown into national champions in 1984 and to one of the all-time winningest programs in college basketball history. It was also what built the foundations for success that Georgetown basketball has had off the competitive floor as well.
So it was on Thursday morning, with more than 400 people in attendance, that Nike Georgetown opened its doors to the public at its M Street location. The three-floor store, which covers 31,000 square feet, is made up of reclaimed wood from local gymnasiums, the walls are formed out of bleachers from local gyms and the floor is highlighted with Georgetown Blue & Gray.
A display honoring Thompson greets patrons as they enter the store and there are highlights of the District and Georgetown throughout the store, with imprints of the feet of former Georgetown All-Americans Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert at the back of the third floor, a full display of Georgetown gear and recognition of the track & field program on the second floor, and a display of Georgetown Jordan Brand basketball sneakers on the third floor.
"I want to say thank you," Thompson said before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "I think it's very significant when you're acknowledged. It's humbling in a sense, although that's not an attribution I have. I've been accused of being that at times, being humble can be sickening at times.
"I'm appreciative of the people who did this, and of Nike. I say that to say, `I remember when the program had no support. I remember when we walked up and down this street literally to start a program and literally banging on doors and asking people, `Would they support this program.' It was not a promotions staff, it was my staff asking people. And Nike, way back, was one of the few major corporations that jumped in to help us when we truthfully needed help. That's why this is even more significant to me."
Thompson recognized many of his former players who were in attendance, but made special reference to Michael Jackson (C'86), who is the Vice President and General Manager of North America Basketball at Nike.
"The saying on that wall is that 10 pounds of air in a basketball should not be your sum total," Thompson said. "We said that a lot about your experiences in the game because your life is useless if the only significance as a ballplayer and an athlete is 10 pounds of air in a basketball. I would tell the kids all the time, if they let all the air out of all the basketballs in the world, and you had no value, how significant is your life?'
"One of the people who is most responsible, and has been most responsible for me being acknowledged personally which I'll forever be grateful for, lived that. He never let his life become 10 pounds of air in a basketball. That's the guy who was the point guard on my national championship team," Thompson said, referring to Jackson.
Thompson, who has been a member of the Board at Nike for many years, led Georgetown to the 1984 NCAA National Championship, three Final Fours (1982, 1984 and 1985), 24-straight postseason appearances, and seven regular season and six BIG EAST Tournament championships.
"Human resources cause you to win," Thompson said. "Buildings don't cause you to win, money doesn't cause you to win, people cause you to win. And if you have the right people working with you, you can be successful. A lot of those people are looked at as insignificantly. The tribute that is being made to me personally is inclusive of those people and I want to say personally as much as I am grateful to Nike for doing this, and it means an awful lot to me that it was done by Nike and their fine staff, I am extremely appreciative of those people who were insignificant, from the custodian to the president of the college, who helped us do whatever it is that you're acknowledging here today."