It was the eyes of Klay Thompson that really stood out for me.
Even before Klay took the floor to play his first basketball game in more than two years, his eyes told the entire story. It was a look that had many meanings – his usual carefree attitude now cast aside for a steely, grim, almost menacing look etched on his face.
You see, this was no ordinary comeback. Klay Thompson is not some second-year guard that suffered a season-ending injury and determined to prove he belonged in the league. Klay Thompson is not a 15-year veteran at the twilight of his career, rehabbing after a ruptured Achilles to get one last paycheck and have the peace of leaving the game on his own terms.
That is not Klay Thompson.
Klay Thompson, in case you forgot, was neck and neck with Steph Curry in the discussion for greatest shooter of all time at the height of his powers. He routinely delivered unspeakable shooting performances in quarters of a basketball game, let alone an entire 48 minutes. Not only that, he’s also an elite two-way player, routinely tasked to defend the best perimeter player on the opposing team. And he did so without batting an eyelash or showing even a hint of regret that his God-given talents to shoot the heck out of a basketball has placed so many responsibilities on his shoulders.
Thompson has been, and always will be, a baller. When he tore his ACL, we all felt for him. It’s rare for a player to be so universally beloved. As great as LeBron James is, he has his own share of haters. Same even for Steph Curry.
But Klay? He was the people’s champion. When he limped off the floor in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, we knew something was wrong. And when news confirmed that he would be out for an extended period of time, we were all devastated for him.
For a moment.
Because that’s what being an NBA fan is – you revel in the moment and move on to the next. When Klay went down, we felt sad, but that was soon replaced by excitement to witness Ja Morant and Zion Williamson play ball during the 2019-2020 NBA season. Then a season later, it was time to get hyped for LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards.
It’s that cycle of anticipation and eagerness to witness the next big thing that gets you. Of course there were still people excited for Thompson to come back, most notably those from the Bay Area. But without Thompson, many knew that the Warriors didn’t stand a chance to contend for a title. So they bided their time, kept silent, and waited. They watched Klay live his best life away from basketball and felt his pain when he injured his Achilles tendon during the offseason, forcing him to miss another year.
It seemed like trial after trial hounded Klay. And the more challenges he faced, the longer he was away from the bright lights and big stage of the NBA.
But you know what’s incredible? Despite new stars popping up left and right in the Association, Klay never stopped believing. Despite the indescribably difficult journey that he had to go through to get to the point that he was ready to play an NBA game, he kept going.
I have to believe that deep down, the motivation for Klay to come back was the feeling that he was forgotten. The fact that he was not chosen for the NBA’s 75 greatest players affected him deeply. He said as much in the media, and he low-key roasted the selection committee with his comments and by wearing a jersey with No. 77.
Who wouldn’t play with a chip on his shoulder after that oversight? After all, this is 3x NBA champion, 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team, and 1x All-NBA Defensive team Klay Thompson we’re talking about. He may evoke the chillest persona in the league, but inside him, there was a storm raging.
Now, let’s go back to Klay Day at Chase Center.
Klay Thompson’s death stare is something new. His steely gaze hasn’t changed from shootaround to the announcing of the starting lineups, where he was the last introduced and got a wild standing ovation from Dub Nation. His face was the same even when he scored the first points of the game off a pindown screen and cut to the middle for a floater.
The first real moment of clarity for Klay Thompson came in the second quarter when he sized up his defender, crossed him up, drove towards the paint, and elevated for a thunderous dunk. The arena went buck wild, his teammates on the bench jumped and rolled on the floor in euphoria.
Did Klay smile? Heck no. Instead, his death stare turned into a murderous sneer. His left lip quivering, a face evoking all sorts of emotions.
“You forgot about me? You didn’t choose me on your list? You thought I was washed? You think I’m not the missing piece for another Dubs championship run?”
It was at that moment that we all should have realized one thing: the Klay Thompson revenge tour has made its first stop. And it’s about to get even wilder.