Sometime over the past 21 months, with more idle time than he’s ever known, Klay Thompson entered a new life phase, one in which his veil of reticence, so long the baseline of his identity, was lifted and tossed. The quietest lion in the Warriors den is roaring.
Thompson’s social-justice advocacy, visible on social media, is fully activated. He’s playing chess. He’s a stage-one bibliophile. He’s meeting with noted life coach Tony Robbins.
“Before I got hurt, I realized all of my hobbies revolved around me being athletic,” he said Sunday during a 17-minute news conference, his first general media availability in 14 months. “These last two years have taught that I need to get more hobbies that bring out the creative side of me because the human body can turn on you.”
After seven seasons in which he played in 96 percent of Golden State’s games, Thompson missed all of 2019-20 after sustaining a torn left ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals. Last November deep into recovering from that injury and surgery, he tore his right Achilles’ tendon pulling up for a jumper during a workout.
The anticipated comeback season ended five weeks before it started.
Thompson swung from denial to acceptance, enduring the dark moments because he had no choice. Two full seasons, in his athletic prime, were stolen.
So, now, even as he dives into another rehabilitation, as he consults with those who have come back from similar injury, it’s obvious Klay has a greater recognition of vicissitudes of life and a much deeper appreciation of the world beyond basketball.
This nugget he retained from conversations with Robbins: “Never lose my soul and always be myself because, like I’ve learned, the human body can give out on you but your soul is forever.”
Thompson, who turned 31 last month, welcomed and absorbed every little note of encouragement that came his way, touched by the volume of letters and emails and other messages from friends, strangers, fellow NBA players and various members of the Warriors organization.
This was his punctuation to the year that was 2020, with a global pandemic sweeping through entire communities, bringing death and severe illness to millions, followed by a social equality movement that also spanned the earth. Comfort zones were closed to all, and here is Thompson, an intensely focused professional, recovering from another surgery and detached from his usual cone of tranquility.
“It was just lonely,” he said. “I think everybody was going through it. You took for granted your daily routines, whether it was getting breakfast in the morning or going to a movie at night . . . 2020 was just such a year of reckoning, not only for the pandemic but for the social justice. I mean, we lost so many innocent people to violence. Kobe going out. And Gigi. And, on top of that, in the fall I tore my Achilles. Probably the worst year of my life. Lost my grandmother.”
“So, it feels good to be back here. I feel love when I’m back in the Warriors facility. My roots are here.”
Over the past couple months, Thompson has been a regular presence with the Warriors. He’s out of the protective boot, riding the stationary bike, lifting weights and sharing insights with his teammates, most of whom he has never played with. Draymond Green and Stephen Curry have noticed and are enjoying this loquacious Klay.
“This dude doesn't stop talking," Green recently told Ros Gold-Onwude. “He's always been extremely quiet. (Now) he does not stop talking. About everything. Nonstop. On the plane, in the locker room.”
This is not lost on Thompson.
“I’m at the point of my career where I can lend my voice, and I know guys appreciate that,” he said. “Even just being there on the road, just showing I’m committed. I know that goes a long way as well.
“But it’s nice when you get to grind with your teammates in the gym every day and you still feel like you’re a part of it. It’s been a weird two years for me. I genuinely love the game so much that it’s been hard to find a lot of happiness without it.
“But it’s going to come back. And it’s just going to make me appreciate what I do that much more.”
Say goodbye to Klay’s previous one-note lifestyle – NBA basketball and its spoils – and say hello to a man whose journey of self-discovery brought a growth that is both refreshing and appealing.