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Klay explains why torn Achilles was harder to accept than ACL

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  • Editor's note: All November, NBC Sports Bay Area and California's HeadStrong series will tell important stories that change the narrative surrounding mental health and sports. First up: Warriors superstar Klay Thompson details the mental challenges he faced after back-to-back season-ending injuries.

Klay Thompson is nearing a return to the court since missing back-to-back seasons after suffering two grueling long-term injuries. 

The Warriors' guard sustained a torn ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, only to then suffer an Achilles injury right before the start of the 2020-21 season. Thompson has not played in a game for Golden State since the ACL injury on June 13, 2019, but is finally nearing his return to the court. 

Thompson discussed his lengthy, two-year rehab journey for NBC Sports' HeadStrong series, and explained why the second injury was harder to digest than the first injury during the 2019 finals. 

“For me, when it happened, it was hard to digest for a few months," Thompson said. "It was hard, man. I can’t even lie to you, it was really really hard. Especially the second time around. The first time, I accepted it. Championship game, five-straight finals, stuff happens. The second time was just so unexpected. It was a week before the season. I was training so hard for like a year, year and a half actually.

"It sucked, it was like the darkest days of my life really. It’s because I love basketball so much. It’s my source, really. Just like the ocean, basketball has been my source since I was a child. That was a big test of my mental health, I learned a lot about how to stay mentally healthy through my rehabs. If there was a silver lining, that was it.”

 
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Suffering back-to-back season-long injuries would take its mental toll on just about any athlete. Being away from the court and teammates for that long, Thompson explained how he was able to alleviate some of his mental struggles. 

“It takes great willpower," Thompson explained. "And on top of that, it takes a great support team around you. Friends, family, teammates. That is really important because when you do get in those dark places, you tend to isolate yourself, at least I do. So when you lean on your loved ones, lean on your friends, that’s what really got me through it. Just spending time with my friends and trying to do other things to expand your mind.”

It remains unclear when exactly Klay will make his long-awaited return to the court, although there have been reports that the Warriors are targeting a return near Christmas.

That timeline would match up with the most recent report that Thompson could be cleared to participate fully in practice at some point in the next few weeks. 

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