Summer 2024

Former NBA player Billy Thompson is now a pastor

Even in his mid-50s, Billy Thompson feels right at home in the gym.

Playing in the 2018 National Masters Championship Basketball Tournament, the 55-year-old still likes to run up and down the court. On occasion, Thompson will even dunk — when his legs give him permission.

“I’m just going to have fun,” Thompson told the Sun Sentinel. “I’m not going to do any dunks. I still can now and then when I’m feeling good.”

Thompson won a national championship with Louisville in 1986, and played six years in the NBA, winning two titles with the Lakers in 1987 and ’88. He became the first player to join the Miami Heat when he was selected in their 1988 expansion draft.

Known as the “B.T. Express,” Thompson still works with the Heat, but in a different role. He’s the pregame chaplain for the organization, while also a senior pastor at Jesus People Proclaim International Church in Deerfield Beach, Fla. Chaplaincy a way for him to stay close to the game and also live out his calling.

“Ministry,” he said. “To me, I made that commitment to the Lord to do pastoring. And I felt if it was something locally, I could do something. But nothing opened up then. But even now, I’m looking to go to be an encourager to those young players.”

Twenty-six years removed from the NBA, Thompson is enjoying the opportunity to pour his life and experience into the younger athletes. When game day comes in Miami, Thompson is the team’s biggest fan.

“I’m watching all the games,” he said. “When I go to the Heat games, I’m like cringing at certain plays. And sometimes I’m like, ‘I want to get out there. I want to get out there.’ So you never lose it.

“I’m out here because I love the game. I want to just have some fun. A lot of guys here I know, great guys that love the game like I do.”

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