The addition of Thompson, acquired in February 1987 in a trade with San Antonio, was critical to the Lakers' title hopes that season. In fact, when told of the trade, which included paying the Spurs some cash, a visibly upset Larry Bird said: “If San Antonio needed money, we would’ve sent them money. But to go and help the Lakers like that is just terrible.”
Thompson added depth and muscle to a Lakers front line that eventually would face Bird’s Celtics in the NBA Finals, doing battle with a Boston team that had what is generally considered the greatest front line in league history: Bird, Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale.
Thompson was an exceptional defender, his duels with McHale were ferocious, but also displayed a good touch around the basket. Averaging 10 points and four rebounds coming off the bench in 1987, he was a key to the Lakers defeating the Celtics for the second time in three years in the Finals.
The following season was probably his best as a Laker as he averaged 11.6 points and six rebounds a game. That kind of production off the bench is why the 1988 Lakers championship squad is often mentioned as one of the greatest in NBA history.
Thompson played three more seasons with the Lakers and eventually became part of the team’s radio broadcast team.
Thompson’s trade to the Lakers gave Los Angeles the distinction of having four overall No. 1 picks on their roster — Thompson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.