We’re counting down the 25 best former Texas athletes still competing in their sport. Each day we’ll reveal a new athlete.
No. 13 Tristan Thompson, basketball
A McDonald’s All-American hailing from Toronto, Thompson was one of the top recruits in the nation when he picked the Longhorns in 2010. There aren’t many Canadian McDonald’s All-Americans, but Texas landed two of them in 2010 in Thompson and Cory Joseph. Once he arrived at Texas he began a strong freshman season for the Longhorns, averaging 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors as well as becoming a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award, the freshman of the year award. Texas was a dominant basketball team that season, one of the last true national title contenders for Texas coach Rick Barnes, at least that’s what it looked like in the regular season. Texas went 28-8 and 13-3 in Big 12 play, starting the season unranked only to rise as high as No. 3 in the nation. But Texas struggled down the stretch, losing three of four games to unranked teams in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State. They lost in the Big 12 title game to No. 1-ranked Kansas. Texas received a No. 4 seed in the tournament and lost to No. 5 seed Arizona 70-69 in the second round. Thompson finished the year as the Longhorns leading rebounder, shot blocker, a team-high 10 double-doubles and shot 54.6 percent from the field, second on the team.
Pro career: Despite initially saying he was returning only to change his mind a month later, Thompson clearly made the right decision to enter the NBA Draft following his lone season at Texas. Thompson joined Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge as the only top-5 NBA Longhorn selections when the Cleveland Cavaliers, who also had the No. 1 pick, took him fourth. He’s spent his entire career with the Cavaliers, helping the team win the 2016 NBA Championship and being a key member to three NBA Finals teams. Before the 2015-2016 season the Cavs signed Thompson to a $82 million, 5-year contract. His latest season was his most challenging as the changing NBA style isn’t the best for 6-foot-9, 238 pound true power forwards. Thompson averaged the fewest minutes of his career, scoring 5.8 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. However, he has, as he has done in almost every season since Lebron James returned to Cleveland, been a revelation in the playoffs, where big rebounders are seemingly still very important. In Game 7 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Pacers, Thompson scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, reminding fans that he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA.
Why he’s here: We’re not going to lie, the off court stuff makes this post a little awkward. Google “Tristan Thompson” and you’re not finding a lot of basketball stories these days. In fact, because of his relationship with reality TV star Khloe Kardashian, Thompson may be the most famous Texas athlete out there despite many of those people having no clue he went to Texas and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award in 2010. Thompson is here because he’s been one of the six or seven best players in the NBA Finals every year for the last three years despite all the talent on the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. He’s here because he’s 27 and one of the best low post players in the NBA.
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