Cleveland (AFP) – Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson earned an iron man reputation long before battling through an ankle sprain suffered during the first quarter of last week’s NBA Finals opener.
The 28-year-old American, who helped the US gold medal effort at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has made reliability and consistency his strengths as much as deadly 3-point shooting in sparking the Warriors’ quest for a third NBA crown in four seasons.
“He’s there every single day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He has never missed a playoff game. He has only missed a handful of games in his entire career. Some of them were because I insisted on giving him a rest. He’s just there. He’s like a machine every day at practice.
“You count on him. You just count on him every day. A lot of people think of toughness and they think bravado. But toughness is also a quiet confidence and a resilience. I think Klay embodies that. He’s there for us every night.”
In 100 career playoff games, Thompson has made 300 3-pointers, passing Kobe Bryant in these finals for sixth on the all-time list. Thompson’s .409 shooting accuracy trails only teammate Stephen Curry (.410) among the top six.
But Thompson received a scare when struck in the leg by Cleveland’s J.R. Smith scrambling for a loose ball in the finals opener. He returned from the locker room to finish, hitting 8-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-10 from 3-point range in a 24-point performance.
“It’s the finals, so you do everything in your power to get right,” Thompson said. “At this point in the season, any means necessary. The ankle feels great.
“I’ll definitely be on the floor. I do think I have a high pain tolerance, but I do definitely feel pain still. So it’s not like I’m invincible.
“No one’s going to feel bad for you if you’re out there. Can’t make any excuses. You’ve just got to go have fun and perform. It comes with the job, so it’s not that big a deal.”
Warriors forward Draymond Green isn’t buying it when Thompson says his ankle is fine.
“Of course Klay’s lying. That’s just who Klay is,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “But he came out there and gutted through it.
“That’s just a microcosm of who he is, one of the toughest guys, if not the toughest guy, I’ve ever played with.”
– Father-son NBA champs –
Thompson is the son of retired Bahamian NBA star Mychal Thompson, who in 1978 became the first NBA Draft overall top pick from outside the United States. He won two NBA crowns with the Los Angeles Lakers and with Klay is among only four father-son duos to win NBA titles.
Klay cites his dad with instilling his dedication to discipline and hard work.
“A lot of repetition, lot of practice. And you’ve got to love it. If you want to be great at something, you’ve got to follow up with it. I’ve been loving playing basketball and shooting since I was a kid,” Thompson said.
“Credit my father for that, for teaching me the fundamentals. I just ran with it since I was a child. It’s something I still love to do every day. Even if I wasn’t getting paid, I’d still try to hit the gym every day.”
– ‘Low-maintenance’ star –
Kerr admires Thompson’s attitude and work ethic through four years of nine-month grinds from pre-season workouts to finals against Cleveland.
“He doesn’t complain. He’s low maintenance. He doesn’t really care for the celebrity or the fame that comes with being an NBA player,” Kerr said.
“He just works hard every day, comes and plays defense hard. And he cares. You see that… we know it’s there all the time because he’s so consistent every day.”
Thompson won’t take the finals for granted.
“This is something you dream of as a kid,” Thompsaon said. “Some guys never get this opportunity throughout their whole career, so we’re going to make the most of it.”