A friend of a friend-Spud Webb-Jim Thomas-October 2

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for October 2, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Today on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke we will have a man named Jim Thomas that is considered a real estate genius, a former owner of a N.B.A team, and passionate supporter of our university in particular the Thomas Family Center.

Established in 2006, the Thomas Family Center was enabled by a generous gift from The Thomas Family Foundation, founded by Jim and his wife Sally Thomas.

The Thomas Family Center consultants reach out and support the community by providing one-on-one consulting and evaluation services for local entrepreneurs while assisting students in developing entrepreneurial competencies and knowledge. The Center is getting ready to go into a new building in a couple of months being built-in Downtown Pembroke.

While I was serving as Athletic Director I watched him become fascinated with our men’s and women’s basketball teams at UNC Pembroke and he funded a new set of uniforms for both teams.

Jim and Sally have done a lot for UNCP and it is amazing to see what a man who grew up in Pembroke, NC can go on and achieve. I don’t have enough time to talk about everything he has done but here are a few snippets.

Jim owned the NBA basketball team-Sacramento Kings from 1992-1999. Today he doesn’t spend much time thinking about basketball if fact he has been quoted as saying:

 “I do not follow basketball as closely as my wife. I still follow the Sacramento Kings in particular, but my wife is an avid fan and watches a lot of basketball. So often times she is watching basketball and I’m reading a book.”

Jim Thomas is one of the real estate industry’s most respected executives. As co-managing partner of Maguire Thomas Partners and founder of Thomas Properties Group, Inc., his impact on the skyline of downtown Los Angeles includes Library Tower, Wells Fargo Center and the Gas Company Tower.

Library Tower in LA depicted below:


Jim is currently chairman of the board of Parkway Properties, which merged with Thomas Properties Group in 2013. He was a former partner in two Los Angeles law firms and was principal owner of the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association.

He is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College and received his law degree from the Cleveland State Law School. His civic engagement in Los Angeles includes board service on the Board of Governors of the Music Center, Town Hall, FAST (Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic), an organization that he founded.

During his first few years of ownership of the Sacramento Kings he had a diminutive man who made a big splash in the N.B.A on his roster. That player was Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb.


jim thomas

The Friend of the Friend-Spud Webb


If that’s Spud Webb you’re fired!

Spud Webb is 5’7″ tall and a former NBA basketball player for a number of teams including the Sacramento Kings. In fact Spud had his best seasons of his career with the Kings.  The average height on a N.B.A roster today is 6’7″. How do you succeed when you are conceding 12 inches on average. You have to possess something remarkable and Spud Webb had that. His vertical jumping ability was off the charts.

The picture below shows the contrast between Manute Bol-7’7″ and Spud Webb. The picture has not been photo shopped.

Spud Dunking

In 1983, North Carolina State assistant coach Tom Abatemarco watched Spud play at Midland Junior College in Texas. He suggested to the late N.C. State head coach, Jim Valvano, that Webb visit the campus on a recruiting trip. As the story goes, the two coaches went to the airport to meet him. When a little guy came walking towards the coaches, Valvano supposedly said to Abatemarco, “If that’s Spud Webb you’re fired.” During the visit Valvano was so impressed with Spud that he offered him a scholarship. Spud went on to lead the team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

Once again, despite Spud’s incredible college career, he was not selected in the NBA draft because of his size. Refusing to give up on his lifelong dream, a disappointed Webb played in the United States Basketball League. Spud finally achieved his goal in 1985 when he was drafted in the fourth round by the Detroit Pistons. Just when he thought that he had overcome his final obstacle, Spud was cut by the team. However, he was given an opportunity to tryout for the Atlanta Hawks and the rest was history.

His legendary claim to fame was of course, winning the slam-dunk championship at the 1986 All-Star game, beating out Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.


Jim Thomas is a small town businessman from Pembroke, NC that made in the big leagues of LA real estate. Spud Webb is a small guy who made a name for himself in a sport dominated by tall people.

Attitude and having a special gift can still take you far.  Welcome home Jim Thomas!

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