David Thompson at NC State University - CODAworx

David Thompson at NC State University

Client: North Carolina State University

Location: Raleigh, NC, United States

Completion date: 2023

Project Team

Sculpture creation, plaza consult

David & MJ Clark

D.A.Clark Sculpture LLC

Lighting design

Jill Klores

Essential Light Design Studio


David Thompson soars forever on a 44″ high mirror polished wedge of stainless steel. Thompson revolutionized the game of basketball with his thrilling above the rim play. His 44″ vertical leap made him an ideal target for the Alley Oop pass, which he helped invent with teammate Monty Towe. Thompson was pivotal in taking NC State all the way to its first NCAA Championship in 1974.


This was the first sculpture celebrating an athlete on campus. And what an athlete! The university wanted something that was as outstanding as David Thompson was. The thing that stood out about his style of play was his incredible 44" vertical jump (at the time a Guiness World Record). We decided to focus on that, and on his sheer athleticism. The muscle development in his legs were equally unique. Also, the sculpture would join existing sculptures of four basketball coaches on the other side of the arena, and the plazas needed to work together.


Boo Corrigan, NC State's athletic director knew what he wanted: a celebration of David Thompson. Who, according to those who had to play against him, could fly! Getting the figure up off the ground was pivotal to our design. But we didn't want anything that looked heavy. Inspired by the Bean in Chicago, we decided on mirror polished stainless steel, which would offer firm support while almost disappearing like a magician's trick. Walking up to the sculpture, and having his toe at chest level informs visitors in a visceral way how unique this man was.
We collected every action photo we could find of David Thompson during his entire career, focusing on his time at NC State. We didn't only want to capture his 'game face' - the whipcord musculature in his legs was equally important to his game.

Additional Information

We researched every basketball sculpture out there, from the colleges to the pros, to understand what had been done, and what had not. We focused on creating something completely unique for David Thompson. This is our approach to every commission we accept.