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Publisher's Summary

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 America, the first Black head coach to win an NCAA championship makes the private public at last. Chockful of stories and moving beyond mere stats (and what stats! Three Final Fours, four times national coach of the year, seven Big East championships, 97 percent graduation rate), Thompson’s book drives us through his childhood under Jim Crow segregation to our current moment of racial reckoning. We experience riding shotgun with Celtics icon Red Auerbach and coaching NBA Hall of Famers like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. How did he inspire the phrase “Hoya Paranoia”? You’ll see. And thawing his historically glacial stare, Thompson brings us into his negotiation with a DC drug kingpin in his players’ orbit in the 1980s, as well as behind the scenes of his years on the Nike board. 

Thompson’s mother was a teacher who couldn’t teach because she was Black. His father could not read or write, so the only way he could identify different cements at the factory where he worked was to taste them. Their son grew up to be a man with his own life-sized statue in a building that bears his family’s name on a campus once kept afloat by the selling of 272 enslaved people. This is a great American story, and John Thompson’s experience sheds light on many of the issues roiling our nation. In this audiobook - a last gift from “Coach” - he proves himself to be the elder statesman whose final words college basketball and the country need to hear. 

I Came as a Shadow is not a swan song, but a bullhorn blast from one of America’s most prominent sons. Huddle up. 

A Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt and Company

©2020 John Thompson (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about I Came as a Shadow

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Came as a Shadow & Left a Visible Mark in History

I absolutely loved this story. 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 odds when the cards are stacked against us.

John makes no apologies. He doesn't sugarcoat anything. He tells it like it is whether you believe him or accept what he has to say. A lot of what we thought we knew about John was what the media told us. It was refreshing to read what actually happened and what John thought of the situation. For instance, when he met with Notorious Drug Kingpin Rayful Edmond and when he met with Nike owner, Phil Knight, and how he helped Mr. Knight before Air Jordan elevated the business. Also, he discussed his meeting with Ann Iverson, Allen Iverson's mother. I also appreciated the back stories of Patrick Ewing and how he dealt with racism. I appreciated the stories about local basketball legends who became great after basketball at Georgetown, like Michael Jackson (not the singer) but ball player, and how he was responsible for the TNT NBA commentaries like Shaq and Kenny Smith. For a man who lived a quiet and private life, it felt good to be invited into John Thompson's psyche and understanding what made him tick.

Yes, John was stoic, controlling, arrogant, selfish at times, and his body was as big as his ego, and filled with black pride, but he was also smart, brilliant, practical, and he really cared about his players. His heart was as tender as the towel he carried across his shoulder during games. It represented his mother and her hard work to get him to be the man he became. He wanted to win games and not save every black kid out there, but often times it happened that way. Mentoring fell into his lap and he accepted it whether he wanted to or not.

Although Thompson lost more big games than he won, in the end, he proved to be one of the biggest champions in college sports because he changed lives and institutions. He helped build brands and peoples' characters. Although he came as a shadow, he left his mark in the history of Washington, DC forever!

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  • 12-22-20

Great story!

Really enjoyed it. One of the best audible listens for me personally! Coach Thompson doesn't hold back.

2 people found this helpful

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enjoyed it

interesting look at a larger than life figure in Washington, DC. A great trip down memory lane for Gtown basketball fans and a portrait of man who was unapologetic.

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Man of honor

Great book detailing the life of a great man, who changed the landscape of sports

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JT Fan

Loved it! Eye opening & spectacular read. Good depth & perspective into a great coaching mind.

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Great read.

I loved this book and how JT told his story. I appreciate how he made the connections between his childhood, upbringing in Washington DC. John Thompson was more than a coach and I respect how much he valued education.

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Powerful Must Read

For anyone with interest is sport, education, history, and the Legendary Coach John Thompson himself, this is a powerful and transparent view behind the scenes of a career of an educator and coach. A true civil rights activist and inspirational leader, Thompson is honest and open sharing stories never before.

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More than you think

i watched georgtown on espn and had my opinion on Coach Thompson. Heard Jesse Washington interview and peeked my interest. wow this was a great book

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Great Story. Great Listen.

I loved Coach Thompson and followed his Hoya teams as a young man. This book uncovered his view of many of the great achievements as well as stories I had not heard before. In addition it is a great read for anyone interested in the perception and experiences of a black man in the late 20th and early 21st century America. I was worried as I know Coach Thompson’s voice well, but the narrator did a great job in making me believe I was listening to Coach.

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amazing read

Finished John Thompson's Book " I came as a Shadow"

I cried, beat my chest, and raised my fist while reading it.

Near the very end he expressed his gratitude for his ancestors, "They took sh$t so I could talk sh$t."

Coaches, teachers and black folk go get the book Now!

1 person found this helpful