It’s been over 900 days since Klay Thompson stepped on the court in an NBA game. He tore his ACL during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and we haven’t seen him play since. A devastating Achilles tear suffered on the day of the 2020 NBA Draft robbed him of his second consecutive season.
Now, two and a half years since that Finals game, Thompson will make his return to the court in a matter of hours.
The Golden State Warriors have been patient with Thompson as he’s worked his way back. They’ve been through a season with the worst record in the league following an injury to Stephen Curry, a middling year capped off with a loss in the play-in tournament, and now a blistering start to the 2021-22 campaign as they prepare for Thompson’s imminent return.
Going into this season, the feeling around the Warriors was to just be patient as they wait to get healthy, then make a run once they have everyone back on the court. They’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations so far, sitting right near the top of the league through almost 40 games.
There are hundreds of articles out there detailing Thompson’s rehab and the peaks and valleys within. I don’t have the means to write that story, so I won’t try. But what I can do is tell you a little bit about what Thompson means to me.
I became a Warriors fan when I was 13 years old. They were a team on the rise, with a young core capable of exploding at any second. Explode they did, winning the NBA title in 2015, finishing the next season with the best record in league history, then winning two more championships following the signing of Kevin Durant.
Along the way, the Curry-Thompson backcourt, dubbed the “Splash Brothers”, became regarded as one of the best guard tandems in league history. It is certainly the best shooting duo the world has ever seen. The basketball universe has been robbed of watching them play together for over two full seasons.
I’ve always thought of Thompson as my favorite basketball player. Don’t get me wrong, Curry is sensational and I absolutely love him, but something about the way Thompson carries himself has always drawn me to the shooting guard.
Maybe it’s his playstyle. His catch-and-shoot, defense-first, low-key presence is exactly what these Warriors need and have always needed, and the Thompson-sized hole in the Warriors’ locker room has been irreplaceable.
Not that I’m much of a basketball player, but when I’m scrimmaging at the gym, Thompson is who I try to be like. A guy like me who can’t dribble or pass is content to play a catch-and-shoot game, and I can at least pretend to be like Thompson for a few nights a week at Vasa Fitness.
When Thompson gets “in the zone,” you know all the shots are going in. He catches fire on the court when he’s locked in, and those moments are scary for the other team. He holds multiple three-point records as the result of his famous hot streaks. Any basketball player knows what it feels like when everything is going your way on the court, but when Thompson is involved, those moments are among the most electric in league history.
Maybe it’s his personality off the court. Reporters love Thompson. He’s one of the best quotes in the NBA. From making paper airplanes in the postgame press conference, to riding to games through the San Francisco Bay on his boat, to dressing up as Jackie Moon for Halloween, there is never a dull moment with Thompson. His teammates love him, as do the fans.
He’s long been regarded as one of the most beloved players in the NBA among fans of all teams, not just the Warriors.
But honestly, I think my favorite part about Thompson is the thing that has been on display over the past 941 days: his perseverance.
How many people would have quit after a year of rehab completed during a pandemic, followed by another devastating injury just as they were getting healthy again? How many can say they recovered from two leg injuries, back to back, and returned to play in the best league in the world?
Teammates, coaches and Thompson himself have spoken about the mental toll the past two and a half years have taken. Athletes love their sport, and having that ripped away for so long is a very difficult thing to go through.
His story has proven to me and many others that anything is possible. He suffered perhaps the two worst injuries that basketball players can have, and is now on the verge of conquering both and finally stepping on the court again.
After all this time, Thompson has reached the end of his lengthy road to recovery. It’s time to put all of it behind him and pursue another championship with the Warriors. There are still more mountains to climb: conditioning work, adjusting back to the life of a professional basketball player, and getting in the right mental space for a deep postseason run.
None of that is easy in the first place, and it’s especially difficult after so much time off. Still, if anyone is built to do it, it’s Thompson.
The entire basketball world is ready to see Thompson return to the court, and it will happen tonight at Chase Center. I’m ready to hear the roar of the crowd as Dub Nation finally welcomes Thompson back after 941 days. It’s been a long two and a half years, but the waiting game is now over. The NBA finally feels complete again.