After over two and a half years of recovery, hardship, and patience, Klay Thompson is ready to step foot on an NBA basketball court for the Golden State Warriors. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he’s dealt with one of the most extended injury periods for any athlete in sports history.
In those 941 days, the NBA world went and got itself in a big hurry. The 2019 season was the final non-pandemic riddled season to date and so much was different back then. Anthony Davis was a Pelican instead of a Laker. Jimmy Butler hadn’t found his Miami paradise yet. Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook hadn’t even been traded for each other.
Most odd to think about of all Luka Doncic was a rookie sensation and Zion Williamson was taking college basketball by storm at Duke. Through all the twists and turns that these last few years have provided, the clinging hope for this future Hall of Famer to return to the hardwood has stayed in the hearts of all true basketball fans. Our hope will finally be rewarded tonight and to celebrate his return let’s take a look at all the times Thompson showed the heart of a true warrior.
Not only does Thompson hold the record for most made three-pointers in a regular season NBA game, he also holds the record for most threes in a playoff game. The former took place on October 28th, 2019 against the Chicago Bulls where he broke Curry’s record in the 3rd quarter and finished with 52 points. The ladder was a performance that nobody should forget for as long as human history continues. Golden State was down three games to two in the Western Conference Finals against Kevin Durant and Westbrook-led OKC Thunder.
Even on the road in then named Chesapeake Energy Arena, Thompson poured on one of the clutchest performances in NBA history. He nailed 11 threes, five of them in the 4th quarter of a back and forth game. Not only was he ridiculously clutch but NBA history as we know it wouldn’t be the same without the effort of Klay that night. Say he was just good rather than great, the Thunder most likely win and close out the series to meet the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Does Durant ever get the itch to join the Warriors after beating them in this case? Doubtful, but needless to say the Warriors wouldn’t have built a dynasty like they did without that historic performance.
Most hardcore and even casual NBA fans know about that game but what many forget is how Thompson saved the Warriors bacon earlier in those same 2016 playoffs when Steph Curry was injured. After leaving game one against the Rockets in round one, the burden was on Thompson to carry a heavier offensive load without the unanimous MVP. In game two, he put up 34 points on 63% true shooting. Then in games 4-5 against Houston he averaged 25 ppg and hit seven threes in both contests.
Immediately going into the second round against Portland, Thompson continued his hot streak by putting up 37 points in game one and once again making seven threes. He’s still the only player in league history to hit 7 threes in three straight playoff games. In the seven-game stretch where Stephen Curry was injured in the 2016 playoffs, Thomspon averaged 28 ppg on 62% TS. He stepped his production up at the most pivotal point in the season all while receiving a lot more defensive attention.
Two years later, the Warriors faced a similar situation. Curry missed the first 6 games of the playoffs and Thompson had to fill in and perform. Yes, they had Durant who led the way but Thompson also came to play as well. He averaged 23 ppg 51/50/100 splits in those first six games. Thompson also was a major factor in the Warriors’ 3-2 comeback against the Harden and CP3 Rockets in the 2018 WCF. In game six, Thompson came to play once again, putting up 35 points and nailing nine threes in the must win game. There’s also an example of Thompson upping his game when the stakes were highest without Durant. In the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, he brought everything he had to the tune of 26 ppg on 54/58/87 splits and a whopping 70% TS.
Unfortunately, some of these moments have been overshadowed in one way or another. The Warriors’ entire 73-9 season isn’t as celebrated as it should be due to them failing to close out the Cavaliers. 2018 was seen as a cakewalk of a championship run since they swept the Cavaliers in the Finals. Even in the 2019 Finals, we don’t remember Thompson’s on-court brilliance because of his injury and the Raptors six-game series win. But as we reflect back on the Warriors dynasty a lot of it may seem like sunshine and rainbows but it could’ve been very gloomy if it wasn’t for Thompson’s greatness when it mattered the most.
Let’s not forget a couple of other legendary performances Thompson had for what feels like centuries ago. There’s the time he scored 60 points in a game, in only 3 quarters and on just 11 dribbles. Then there’s that other time he scored 37 points in ONE QUARTER! It’s hard to do that in a video game even if you turn the setting down to rookie. There’s also another time where Klay Thompson showed us who he truly is. It was the last time we saw him on a court in a live NBA game.
After going down awkwardly from a hard fall and clutching his knee the collective pulses of Warriors fans dropped. Curry slammed the ball down hard and knew exactly what we did, Thompson was going to have to leave going into the most important quarter of the season. What happened soon after was inspiring and truly defines the Warrior mentality of Thomspon.
Despite a catastrophic injury and obvious pain, he returned to the court to make both of his two free throws. In his moment of suffering, Thompson stepped back into the arena (literally) and showed the heart of a true champion and fighter. It’s this mental strength that aided him to keep going even after suffering another terrible injury.
The video of Thompson hitting 25 straight threes in shootaround, the one of him with his head down and a towel over his head, and the countless depressing facial expressions during Warrior games over the last year have all led to this moment. A moment where a true Warrior in Klay Thompson will once again step back into the arena after a path marred by hardships and join the Golden State Warriors fight.