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Before joining Morehouse, Thomas covered sports for 28 years in the San Francisco Bay Area except for 1982-84, when he was USA Today’s first NBA writer. At various times he was the beat writer for the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants, regularly covered professional tennis, enjoyed crafting sports history articles (did you know the score of the first women’s intercollegiate basketball game was Stanford 2, Cal 1 in 1896) and was an eyewitness to some of sports’ most famous plays and events:
- Julius Erving’s famous one-handed float beneath the basket in Game 5 of the 1980 NBA Finals;
- Magic Johnson’s game-winning “junior hook” that shocked the Celtics in Game 4 of the 1987 Finals;
- Joe Montana’s winning 34-yard TD pass to John Taylor that beat Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII;
- Venus Williams’ pro tennis debut in Oakland on Oct. 31, 1994;
- Jerry Rice’s final game as a San Francisco 49er, which ended with teammates carrying him off the field on their shoulders on Dec. 17, 2000;
- So many Barry Bonds home runs in 2002-2003 that none stands out in memory. He turned a ballpark into a missile range.
Much of his impetus for becoming a sports writer stemmed from the writings of Harry Edwards and Sports Illustrated’s Jack Olsen in the 1960s, which made Thomas acutely aware of racism in sports. Much of the work he is most proud of relates to that topic, including: a 1999 column titled “Why So Few?” about the lack of black NFL coaches; a 1987 column about Al Campanis’ infamous “necessities” interview; a 1997 column about pro football’s Bill Romanowski-J.J. Stokes spitting incident; and a 2006 Crisis Magazine article about the lack of black female head coaches at predominantly white colleges.
Thomas was the researcher for HBO’s “Fields of Fire” documentary about the turmoil in sports in the 1960s and ’70s revolving around racism, the Vietnam War and gender equity. And in 1996, Thomas’ chapter “Black Faces Still Rare in the Press Box” was published in the sociology textbook “Sports in Society: Equal Opportunity or Business as Usual?”
Thomas’ book, “They Cleared the Lane: the NBA’s Black Pioneers,” is a culmination of those efforts.
A member of the National Association of Black Journalists for more than 40 years, Thomas was an original co-chair of its Sports Task Force and currently co-hosts its annual ceremonies honoring black sports pioneers.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Thomas virtually grew up in sports stadiums by regularly attending baseball, football and basketball games with his family. Now residing in Atlanta, Thomas’ hobbies include playing tennis, hearing actors and directors talk about movies, and going to plays with his wife Charlene.