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Tim Thomas

Sport: Basketball

Born: February 26, 1977

Town: Paterson

Timothy Mark Thomas was born February 26, 1977 in Paterson. Tim was quiet, coordinated and very, very tall. He didn’t like standing out in the crowd. In seventh grade, he heard that coffee could stunt your growth so he began drinking a cup every morning. It didn’t work. By the time Tim enrolled as a freshman at Paterson Catholic, he stood 6'7" and was almost unstoppable on the basketball court. The Cougars’ coach, Jimmy Salmon, also happened to be Tim’s cousin, so he felt right at home. Tim was a Parade All-American as a sophomore, junior and senior and many felt he could move directly to the NBA. He had grown to 6'10" by then, but still had the silky-smooth game of a shooting guard. As a senior, he averaged 28.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game. He finished his prep career with 2,232 points. The only high-schooler rated higher that season was Kobe Bryant.

Tim decided that college was the right move, and picked Villanova over a number of suitors, including Kentucky, UNC and Seton Hall. He chose to play for the Wildcats because coach Steve Lappas promised he would fill the small forward position. That was the position Tim anticipated playing the pros, although he had the game to be a shooting guard and the body to be a power forward or even a center.

Tim played one year—the 1996–97 season—for Villanova. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Wildcats. The team went 24–10, and finished first in the Big East. The Wildcats fell to Boston College in the conference tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, Villanova defeated LIU in the first round but fell to California—led by future NFL star Tony Gonzalez—in the next round. After the tournament, Tim decided one year of college was enough and made himself eligible for the NBA Draft.

The New Jersey Nets drafted Tim with the seventh pick in the first round, and then traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers for Keith Van Horn. At age 20, Tim held his own as an NBA rookie. He was on the floor for 23 minutes a night and averaged 11 points a game. A major in-season trade with the Pistons changed the chemistry of the Philly frontcourt, and the following year Tim quickly became expendable. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks after just 17 games.

Tim spent three full seasons in Milwaukee and parts of two others. The Bucks made good use of his versatility and he responded with his best NBA numbers. In a January 2001 game against Portland, he nailed eight three-pointers in the second half. Teammate Ray Allen claimed Tim had the talent to be the league’s best player, but he was unable to elevate his game to All-Star level. Conditioning was the key issue. Still, there was always a team that felt it might have the key to unlock his full potential.

Tim had stints with the Knicks (twice), Bulls (twice), Suns, Clippers and Mavericks between 2004 and 2010. There were occasional flashes of brilliance, but nothing sustained. Near the end of Tim’s career, his wife Tricia (a fellow Paterson Catholic alum) suffered from an undisclosed illness. Unable to focus on his game, he retired from the NBA at the start of the 2010–11 season. Tim made Los Angeles his permanent home. He lives there with Tricia and their three daughters, Kiara, Kennedy and Kallie.


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