Klay Thompson Is All Grown Up


In his first game in the NBA, Klay Thompson distinctly remembers getting his shot swatted halfway out the gym by DeAndre Jordan on only his second career touch. He thought he had an open layup, but Jordan’s weakside help snuffed it out real quick.

“That was my ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment,’ ” he said.

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Now heading into his fifth NBA season however, Klay Thompson is pretty much a seasoned vet at the ripe age of 25. He’s won an Olympic Gold Medal, set shooting records with his back-court mate Stephen Curry, and last season helped his team run the gauntlet in the competitive Western Conference and end the year as NBA champions. While there were some questions during the first two years of his career as to whether or not he would develop as much as fans expected him to, he silenced all the naysayers with his play last season.

Thompson was able to up both his overall and three-point field goal attempts without sacrificing efficiency, he developed his ball handling skills to the point that he’s no longer considered a threat only as a spot-up shooter, and perhaps most importantly has turned himself into the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA, evidenced by the fact that his 97.7 Defensive Rating last season was just a hair off from noted lock down defenders like Andre Iguodala,  Kawhi Leonard and Dwight Howard.

But maybe the biggest sign of his growth from a wide eyed rookie into an NBA champion, is his relationship with the media.

September 28, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) addresses the media in a press conference during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Growing up, Thompson was by all accounts a reserved kid. His dad, former Lakers guard Mychal Thompson, says that as the middle child Klay was always the quiet one, and would often disappear for hours at a time to read books on his lonesome. His reserved personality seemed to stick with him as he made his transition into the NBA, as Klay would always make an effort to remain humble in interviews, and dole out credit to others before praising himself.

But when you get named to an All-Star team, drop 37 points in a quarter and win an NBA title in the same season, you kinda earn the right to brag just a little bit. And Klay’s definitely been exercising his right

Last week, reporters asked Klay to respond to LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, who had said that the Warriors were lucky that they didn’t have to face the Clips on their way to the Finals last postseason.

Boy did he respond:

"“If we got lucky, look at our record against them last year. I’m pretty sure we smacked them.”"

Thompson then asked the reporters some questions, bringing up the Clippers’ collapse against the Rockets in the Western Conference semis.

“Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? So that just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1, too? Tell them I said that, too,” said Thompson.

As a player who’s never mouthed off so openly to the media (though he threw subtle jabs at LeBron after the Finals), obviously Thompson’s comments drew attention. But while most articles considered his comments in the context of the Clippers’ rivalry with the Warriors, his words have just as much meaning when considered in the context of Klay’s growth as a player.

There’s plenty of NBA players that have the game, but choose not to to trash talk opponents, like Kawhi Leonard or Derrick Rose. There are also plenty of players who talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk, like Lance Stephenson. But the most special players are the ones that can combine the two, à la Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett or even James Harden

Before you all rip into me, yes, I know it’s too early to compare Klay Thompson to some of the greatest players of our generation. But everyone starts from somewhere.

And if Thompson is able to combine his on-court skill with an off-court persona and swagger, then I think that this may be the start of something special.

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