words // Brandon Richard
images // Heidi Hammer
video // Craig Wild
“Not just a fluke — it was just growing man. It was just a lot of hard work, a lot of time put into it and my dream came true.”
That sums up Jason Thompson’s approach to the game of basketball. He’s never been handed anything — going back to his days at New Jersey’s Lenape High School. There, Thompson started as a 6’0″ shooting guard, but saw his height increase by seven inches by the time he led the little-known school to a Group IV state title as an All-South Jersey center in his senior season. The motivation he showed in high school landed him an opportunity at nearby Rider University, where he’d suit up for the Broncs for four years.
In college, Thompson once again demonstrated his commitment to improvement. In four straight-seasons, he increased in averages in points per game, field goal percentage, assists, rebounds and blocks. As a senior, Thompson recorded a line of 20.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.1 steals. He led Rider to the 2008 MAAC Tournament Finals and was named MAAC Player of the Year.
After excelling at another small school, Thompson’s skills and upside made him a lottery prospect in the 2008 NBA Draft, when he was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 12 overall pick. In his rookie season, he worked his way into the starting lineup and led the Kings in total rebounds. He’d go on to replicate the feat in his second year, increasing his averages in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks. After two more solid campaigns, the Kings re-signed Thompson to a five-year contract extension in July 2012.
Now in his fifth season, a lot has changed for Thompson in Sacramento. In five years, the team has been through five different coaches, five different visions, taken on new management and avoided the possibility of relocation. The constant? His willingness to work as hard as possible to be a winner in the league.
It’s all in the preparation for Thompson, and with him on board as one of Eastbay’s newest Field Testers, we recently had the opportunity to catch up with him to find out how he prepares to win. Off court, you can find Jason geared up in his Nike Foamposites and casual Nike clothing. On the court, he prefers performance-oriented Nike basketball clothing and brand new Nike Hyperdunk 2013 sneakers.
Check out our exclusive interview with Jason Thompson above and a few of his Field Tested styles below.
words & interview // Zac Dubasik
photos // Katrin Auch for Activision
Their basketball seasons may have ended earlier than either would have liked, but this afternoon, Deron Williams and Tyreke Evans had the opportunity to face off away from the hardwood. If you follow many NBA players on Twitter, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that playing Call of Duty has become as much of an off-court pastime for some players as gambling on the team plane, or eating at Cheesecake Factory. And today is a lucky day for those players, and any gamers, who are passionate about Call of Duty: Black Ops, because it marks the launch of the new “Escalation” map pack, which made its debut on Xbox Live. And to help launch these additional maps, Williams and Evans faced off, along with media and Call of Duty developers.
Prior to their Grudge Match (which Deron’s team went on to win 4-2), I had a chance to talk with DWill and Tyreke about gaming, hoops and, of course, sneakers.
Zac Dubasik: How much time do each of you guys spend playing video games?
Deron: I haven’t played in a month because of my wrist surgery. But I play quite a bit. This is my late-night game. My kids don’t let me play during the day, so I play after games, and when we come back from road trips. I’m on it until like 3 or 4 in the morning.
Tyreke: [I don’t play] that much, but I play here and there. I’m not that good though. [laughs]
ZD: What is it about Call of Duty that you guys like so much?
Deron: I just like the game. I’ve tried a lot of games. Earlier on, I played Rainbow Six, and games like that. But this game just blows that stuff away. I’ve never been to war, but I think it’s pretty realistic, and the guns are pretty realistic. I shoot guns a lot, so I’ve shot a lot of the guns that are on the game, and I think that’s what I like about it.
ZD: Tyreke, what do you think about how they are able to expand and add new elements to the games, like with this new “Escalation” map pack?
Tyreke: I think it’s pretty cool. Especially when you get to [the level] some people are at. When I play a lot, that’s the only thing I have trouble with: knowing where people are coming from. [laughs] I get stabbed in the back of the neck and things like that. The game is cool, it’s realistic, and really good.
ZD: Did you both grow up playing video games?
Deron: Yeah, I’ve been playing video games since Nintendo, and Mike Tyson’s punchout, and all that. Then I graduated through everything there’s been over the years. Now I play Xbox.
ZD: And you Tyreke?
Tyreke: I’ve been playing games a lot. Madden, NBA Live, NBA Jam. My brothers and I always had games.
ZD: Tyreke, the big news came out this week, and it looks like you are definitely going to be in Sacramento next season. Could you talk about what it’s like to finally have an answer?
Tyreke: Sacramento is a good city. The fans always come out and support us, even when we aren’t winning. They always support us. That’s where I got drafted. We do everything for the fans, and hopefully we can make it to the playoffs next season.
ZD: How aware were you of everything that was going on during the season? Did you have much information?
Tyreke: I really didn’t know. Fans were asking me if we were leaving; they thought we knew. But we didn’t have any clue what was going on. We were just like them, trying to find out what was going to happen. We just worried about playing, and trying to finish the season out strong.
ZD: Did you find it to be distracting?
Tyreke: A little bit. When I’d go out, people would be asking all the time. They didn’t want us to leave, and people were upset about it. They had an all-purple day out there. It was pretty crazy.
ZD: In contrast to that Deron, where everyone was wondering what would happen to the Kings, and where everyone was talking about where a few other players may or may not make moves to, your trade pretty much took everyone by surprise. Could you talk about what that was like, and how big of a transition it was moving from a smaller market, to New Jersey?
Deron: It was definitely different. It caught me off guard when I got traded, and took me a little while to fit in. It wasn’t the best timing for everything to happen. But, since things have settled down, and I’ve had a chance to be around the organization, they’ve been great to me. They’ve made me feel really comfortable. I had a conversation with the owner, Mr. Prokhorov, and the direction he wants to take things in has got me really excited. I went and saw the site for the new arena, and how things are progressing there. There’s definitely some things that I’m looking forward to over the next year, and that will help me decide on what I want to do with my future after that.
ZD: Has it been tough this Playoffs, watching from the sidelines for a change?
Deron: Yeah, it’s been tough man. You know, this is the first year I haven’t been in the Playoffs since my rookie year. We had four straight years of going to the Playoffs, and it’s tough sitting there watching games when you feel like you should be out there playing. But, hopefully we can bring Jersey back to the Playoffs next year, and have a good move to Brooklyn after that.
ZD: Have you been following the Playoffs much, and watching a lot of games?
Deron: I’ve been watching off and on. I don’t sit there and watch the whole games, because it just pisses me off. But, I’ve caught a couple games, and a couple different scenarios.
Tyreke: I’ve watched a couple games, but I’m in the same boat. You can’t watch too much. It makes me want to get in the gym and start working out. But I’ve watched a few games here and there.
ZD: Have either of you been surprised by any teams, or players so far?
Deron: The whole Playoffs have really been a surprise. With Memphis winning, and knocking out the number one seed, and Atlanta upsetting Orlando, there’s been a lot of upsets. And now, a lot of teams are down 0-1 that you thought would be up 1-0.
ZD: One of the big stories this season in the NBA has been the great play of so many point guards. Has that been motivating and inspiring for the two of you?
Tyreke: For me, I’m really just starting to get the point guard position down pat; I was a 2-guard all my life. Now, I’ve moved to the point guard, and I’m just trying to figure out some of the tricks that can get me better, and work on my game. I’m looking forward to it, to get better.
Deron: I think it’s a challenge every night. Every night, you are going to be going up against tough point guards. There’re really no nights off; there’s never really an easy night. And I think that’s the main thing – there’s a lot of competition, friendly competition, and rivalries that are going to form over the next several years.
ZD: I have a few sneaker questions now. Deron, you wore a lot of Hyperfuses this year, both the mid and low. Could you talk about how that shoe worked for you, and what you liked so much about it?
Deron: I love the Hyperfuse, and the technology is great. I’ll say it’s probably the best shoe I’ve been in, since I’ve been in the NBA. As far as support, I tear up shoes. I’m pretty hard on shoes, because I do a lot of cutting, moving and changing pace, and these have been the best ones for me. I usually have to change shoes every two games, and I still do, but I wouldn’t need to with these. They’ve been good to me.
Do you get involved with the colorways and materials?
Deron: We talk a lot about it. Nike comes to me every summer, and we go over different colorways, and what I like, what I don’t like about certain shoes. Even though I wear Hyperfuses, I always like to make a little change to them here and there.
How about you Tyreke? In college, and then in your rookie season, you wore the Hyperdunk. And then this season you went with the Hyperdunk 2010. Could you talk about those shoes?
Tyreke: They were good. I think the ones I wore last year were the best shoes, and the new ones that I had were really light.
ZD: What are you guys into wearing off the court?
Deron: I rock Nikes man. Air Maxes. Blazers. Occasional Dunks.
Tyreke: Me too. I wear Nikes.
ZD: Do you have an all-time favorite shoe?
Deron: Air Max 95s are my favorite shoe.
ZD: The neon’s?
Deron: Yeah. I just had to throw those away, because I wore ‘em too much!
ZD: How about you Tyreke?
Tyreke: There’s a lot of shoes that Nike makes, but I’d probably say the Air Force 1. White-on-white.
ZD: Last question. Do either of you want to make a prediction on who will end up taking the NBA Title this season?
Deron: I think Miami is going to win it.
Tyreke: I like Miami.