"I'm not sure Mychal is a first-rate NBA center," says Ramsay. "I think his best position is at forward. I think if that was the position he was playing, he would be a first-rate NBA forward." Portland General Manager Stu Inman agrees. "I think his chance for greatness would be at power forward," Inman says. "His size and body build minimize his chances for greatness as a center." Like a lot of people, Inman believes that Thompson could reach a "higher level" of play were he to apply himself more diligently, perhaps overlooking what Thompson has accomplished in only 10 years. "The game has come relatively easy for him," Inman says. "He's naturally gifted and hasn't had to work as hard as some to become a proficient player. Maybe because of that he hasn't become as tough mentally as some."
Thompson finished fourth in the NBA in rebounding (an 11.7-per-game average) and 17th in scoring (20.8) last season. And this year he will be expected to provide more leadership. "I keep trying to tell those guys what to do," Thompson says kiddingly of his Portland teammates, "and they keep telling me, 'Shut up or we'll have you deported.' How's a poor Bahamian boy supposed to show his leadership in the face of that?"
Whenever he's at home, walking around the streets of Nassau or lounging on the beach at Paradise Island, Thompson knows he's being watched. "The kids look at me like I'm some kind of god, a mystical being from outer space," he says. "They follow me around and notice the things I say and do in public. It's important not to let them down." And that is one of the reasons why he keeps trying to get one small wooden basketball floor built in the Bahamas.
"When you watch these kids playing sports, it's obvious the talent is there," Thompson said one day during his camp. "But you can also see the frustration on their faces because they know they're not going anywhere—at least not the way things are now. They can't get off the island and they can't get to the States to get an education like I did. When I was their age I was just like these kids until I got an opportunity, and look where I ended up. All they need is a chance to show what they can really do. I don't want to be the only one who makes it."