Going into working on the profile, there were a couple areas in particular that intrigued me about Tristan: the fact that he shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron James on a team in which James clearly wields a lot of power; and also his character and how his sunny demeanor really seemed to contribute to his success. I covered Lamar Odom when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Tristan sort of reminded me of Odom in that regard.
After a couple of months of reporting (when I could find the time between the day-to-day rigors of the Cavs beat) and with immense help of Henry Abbott and Justin Verrier, who worked wonders shaping the material I was able to collect, we came up with a profile that uses a few episodes to give a glimpse into Thompson's life.
With Thompson in the news Monday because of James' starting a public campaign for the Cavs to re-sign the big man this summer, I figured it was a good time to revisit the feature and share some of what didn't make it into the piece.
• He is a picky eater. "I hate leftovers," Thompson said. "Even in my childhood, I never liked reheating up food. I've been getting better lately, but I just hate warming up food because I think when I open it up, it doesn't look fresh no more. It looks kind of, like, shriveled up. You know when you come out of the shower and you're pruney and stuff? I'm like ugh. I want it fresh. If it isn't fresh, make me another dish. And I hate cold food. I hate cold cuts."
He also doesn't like seafood, which he gets from his mom, Andrea Brooks. "I don't like fish," Brooks said. "Because the fish eat their poos. I don't eat that stuff. Fish eat their own poo. So, I'm not eating fish."
• He is unaware of the Victoria, British Columbia, native pop singer who shares his same name. "Is he any good? Does he have a lot of views? Like millions? Is he good-looking? Do girls like him?" Thompson asked. "He probably gets Twitter mentions about me. He hasn't blown up yet."
• His mom is a fan of James. "I'm so glad he's playing with LeBron," Brooks said. "He only can learn. He can learn to be better because he's playing with the best. He can take that blessing and turn it to be good in his life."
• He wears No. 13 because he was born on March 13. Even though Thompson considers it his lucky number, he scored 13 points in his final game at St. Benedict's in New Jersey before being kicked off the team. He had to wear a couple of other numbers for the Canadian national team before he got his favorite No. 13. "The national team is a little bit different because of the FIBA rules," Thompson said. "Sometimes it goes by position, but now that I got a little bit more staying power, I got a little bit more juice in Canada basketball, I get No. 13."
• His temper is entertaining. Matthew Dellavedova says the team cracks up at the way Thompson restrains himself when he gets ticked off during a game. "He's a really great guy, but when he gets mad?" Dellevedova said. "Like, say he gets mad at the refs or something, he'll go to say something, but he's too nice of a guy, so he stops himself before he does it."
• He's no Sam Dalembert. Longtime Toronto-based journalist Michael Grange, who currently works for Rogers Sportsnet, described how Thompson immediately fit in with the Canadian national team without wanting star treatment.
"There's always been a little bit of a concern [pro players] are used to playing roles but want to branch out from their NBA team," Grange said. "Like Sam Dalembert, he wanted to come back and play for the national team and all of a sudden he wanted to be Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal]. He wanted to get 30 touches and they're like, 'No, Sam, just f-----g get some rebounds and block shots.'
"And Tristan, I don't know if there was anxiety about that, but I was a little curious of if he was going to come to the national team and all of a sudden want to play stretch 4. But the amazing part about him was he just f-----g played his ass off. The same Tristan you see in the summer is the one you see with the Cavs. He just sprints the floor, he f-----g kills himself for every offensive rebound, every defensive rebound. So, he just gives that team a really high-quality, energy, hard-work, blue-collar, get-it-done guy. So, right away, that makes him incredibly valuable. Everyone else might be finding a role or expand their role, he proved or showed that he was just willing to come and bust his ass."
• He's isn't modest when it comes to his national team. Thompson was confident about Team Canada's chances at this summer's FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico and, subsequently, the 2016 Olympics. He was also brutally honest about the competition: "USA gets the summer to relax and kind of just chill," said Thompson. "But for us, it's a big summer for our country. In 2016, we should have a good enough team to really medal, because Spain is getting old -- by 2016 they'll be very, very old, and their young group, I don't know what their young group is like, but their head honchos are old. Russia is older. Argentina, those guys are going to be soon retired and stop playing. Brazil is always strong because they just have good players for international ball, but for us, we're the next cream of the crop."
• He understands the spotlight better. During a preseason game this year, Thompson kissed Fox Sports Ohio sideline reporter Allie Clifton on the side of the head while she was recording a live segment. The video went viral immediately with blogs titling posts about it with headlines such as, "Thompson under fire for kissing blonde Fox reporter" and "Tristan Thompson kisses sideline reporter, makes things awkward," even though Clifton herself took to Twitter to dismiss it as an "inside joke" and "not a big deal," while adding the two have a "good working relationship."
For Thompson, it was a preview of the attention his team was going to receive this season.
"That's what happens when people don't watch you last year, you don't win enough games. So, it's nothing big," Thompson said. "It just shows that this team is going to be under a magnifying glass, so anything you do will be definitely enhanced 10 times more than usual."
• He barely missed out playing against Kyrie Irving in college. In the 2011 NCAA tournament, his No. 4-seeded Texas squad was upset 70-69 by the No. 5-seeded Arizona Wildcats, led by Derrick Williams. Had the Longhorns have won, they would have gone on to play Irving and Duke in the Sweet 16. "We were supposed to play them," Irving said. "They were up by four with 50-something seconds left and they ended up giving the game away."
• He has three younger brothers. Thompson is the eldest of four boys and remains close with his three siblings -- 19-year-old Dishawn, 9-year-old Daniel and 8-year-old Amari.
Daniel is a budding basketball player, just like Tristan and Dishawn. Amari can't play, however, as he suffers from epilepsy. "As a kid, when he first started getting seizures, I was so scared," Thompson said. "I was nervous because I didn't know what to do exactly."
Thompson teamed with Epilepsy Toronto and established a fund in Amari's name to help others with a family member with the neurological disorder. Thompson said one in 100 families are affected by epilepsy.
"It's definitely changed our family, but at the same time, I think it's just a blessing to be able to understand what he's going through," Thompson said.
"Other families are going through it, too, and it's a way for us to meet other people that are going through it and hear their stories and kind of just learn and grow a bigger family outside of our household."
If there were any one explanation for Thompson's motor on the court and motivation to keep going, it would be Amari.
"It's made Tristan stronger," said Brooks. "It changed a lot of stuff in his life because now he, as he says all the time, 'Because of what Amari is going through, whenever I step on the court it makes me want to be a better person.' Because he wants to make sure the other kids are taken care of. For him to enter in that basketball court, he's doing it not just for Amari, but for the other kids are going through all these problems with parents that are trying to help them. So that's one of his big goals."
But he never neglects the little responsibilities that come with being a big brother.
"When he comes home, he will embrace them with lots of love, lots of laughs, make sure they're OK," Brooks said.
There's another ritual he shares with his brothers whenever he goes home. Thompson has an endorsement deal with Tim Horton's, and he becomes like Cosmo Kramer on "Seinfield," cashing in on his free caffe lattes when he's back north of the border.
"When he comes home, it will be like a little treat for them," Brooks said. "He will grab them up and lift them up. He will grab Amari in one hand and grab Daniel in one hand and kiss them up, kiss them up, kiss them up and say, you know, 'What do you think, man? Should we go to Tim Horton's and grab some donuts? We don't get this stuff too much in Cleveland.' You know, so it's like a little treat. That's a little embracement that they love."