Klay Thompson has been a huge part of the success of the Golden State Warriors. Since he arrived in the NBA in 2011, Thompson has progressed into an All-Star, a champion, and one of the greatest shooters of all time. Thompson is devoted to his sport, respected throughout the league, and beloved by his teammates.
Injuries are a risk in any sport, and sadly this misfortune befell Thompson during Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June 2019. After making five consecutive Finals appearances, the Warriors matched up with the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Finals. With the loss of Kevin Durant earlier in the playoffs, Thompson and Stephen Curry knew they had a major challenge to win their fourth NBA title. Klay had risen to such a challenge many times before, such as his legendary game 6 against Oklahoma City in 2016, in which he scored 11 three-pointers and 41 points to pull out the victory.
Game 6 against Toronto was a home game for the Warriors at Oracle Arena, and the crowd was ready for a showdown. It was a tight game through the 3rd quarter when suddenly Thompson erupted. Shots were falling like the 2016 series, and the crowd knew it was time for “Game 6 Klay.” There were two minutes left in the 3rd quarter when suddenly the Warriors got a steal and a fastbreak. Curry picked up the ball and threw it ahead to Thompson. Thompson went up for a dunk as a defender collided with him and tragedy struck.
Thompson fell and immediately grasped at his left leg. The arena fell silent, as this did not appear to be a normal injury. Thompson had to be helped off the court. The Warriors lost this game, and the Toronto Raptors were 2019 NBA Champions. Soon, doctors confirmed Thompson had suffered a torn ACL in his left leg and would miss the entire next season.
This was just the start of the team’s change in fortunes. The Warriors traded guard for Andre Iguodala and backup PG Shaun Livingston retired. At the beginning of the new season, Curry suffered a broken right hand and things only went downhill from there.
Thompson spent countless hours rehabbing and preparing for the new 2021-22 season. Curry was healed and new players had joined. On top of this, because of their poor record the year before, the Warriors were about to pick the second player in the draft on November 18. Then things dramatically changed again. Basketball fans everywhere were shocked when Thompson went down again on the same day as the draft. He was just playing a pickup game to get back in shape. Just like the 2019 Finals, it may have been the worst moment of Thompson’s career. Later that day, the Warriors announced they selected Wiseman, and that Thompson had suffered a torn right Achilles tendon, which is a season-ending injury. Thompson’s hard work and rehabilitation would have to start all over again, and his basketball career was jeopardized.
This may never have happened if the season started earlier. But, because of COVID-19, the 2020-21 NBA season was rescheduled for December 22nd, almost two months after the season usually starts. Of course, this gave Thompson extra time to recover from 2019’s injury but was a very unusual chance for the NBA players. His body is used to the starting time of the season, and perhaps if the season had started on a regular time, Thompson would have avoided this injury. According to Dr. Rajpal Brar, physical therapist for 3CB Performance, “DeMarcus Cousins [another player with a similar injury] had the Achilles injury while with the New Orleans Pelicans, then he had the quad, and then he had the Achilles rupture, so it can kind of set off this vicious cycle, and so in Klay’s case, it was not surprising to me.” Dr. Brar also said Thompson’s injury could have happened because his body could have been overcompensating for his past injury in 2019. Perhaps Thompson overworked himself because he was guilty of missing the season for an injury that came from nowhere and wanted to overcome the feeling of not being there for his team.
Thompson will come back. The question is: can he be the same player? Since it will be over almost two years since Thompson has even stepped foot on an NBA court by the time he is back, there are worries about whether he can return to superstar form. Luckily for Thompson, he never relied much on pure athleticism for his game because he is a sharpshooter. However, Klay’s injury could destabilize his defense – another thing he is known for. He can move his feet quickly and has a quick reaction helping him keep up with his opponent. Hopefully, Thompson will come back better than ever by next season. It will be a long road ahead of him, but he has always been ready for the challenge.