The Warriors have been one of the most dominant teams in NBA history, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, they were awful just 10 years ago, so bad that no player wanted to come play for them, including Klay Thompson himself when he was first drafted into the league as the 11th pick in 2011. Luckily, he changed his mind and signed with the Warriors as a free agent after they drafted him, but it wasn’t an easy transition from being one of the top players in college basketball at Washington State to playing third fiddle on an awful team in Golden State.
In his four NBA seasons, Klay Thompson has never had a healthy offseason.
Whether it was the ACL injury in 2015 or the torn tendon in 2016, he has been limited by something every year.
This year is no different as he battled through a strained hamstring that kept him out for nearly three months and now an ankle sprain that will sideline him for at least another week.
The injuries have left Klay feeling lonely and isolated from his teammates, but one thing always seems to help calm his mind: the rubber ball emblazoned with The Harlem Globetrotters on it that he found in his locker during training camp.
He takes comfort in knowing that while the NBA season can be long and stressful, there are still other things outside of basketball he can do.
For example, Klay recently participated in the Nike Skills Academy where James Wiseman won MVP honors for big men. That night was an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.
For a few hours, they all forgot about everything else besides playing basketball and living life as a kid again.
And what better way to stay young than spending time with some true masters of the game? Klay really took advantage of his time at the skills academy.
When asked who stood out most to him, he had two answers: James Wiseman (Nike) and Andrew Wiggins (Nike). They’re just so talented, he said. They’re like 14-year olds.
Klay’s injury and recovery
As the Bay Area’s newest basketball superstar and one of the brightest stars in the NBA, Klay Thompson has had a long and eventful career.
With 437 games under his belt, Klay has dealt with a multitude of injuries including two ankle surgeries, two knee surgeries and a fractured thumb.
The most recent injury was another broken thumb that forced him to miss six weeks of action during the regular season.
To deal with this difficult time, Klay turned to his teammates on the Memphis Grizzlies, who gave him their team ball with the signatures of every player on the team to cheer him up.
But it was when he found himself away from home with just one teammate that he felt most alone.
That’s when his teammates at the Memphis Grizzlies came up with an idea for Klay: Do you want our ball? You can use it if you need some comfort.
So Klay took their special Globetrotters ball, which featured signatures of every player on the roster — many current and former superstars like Zach Randolph, P.J. Tucker, Mike Conley Jr., Mario Chalmers and more!
The signatures proved to be just what he needed: It was so hard being injured but I could always come back here and look at my special globetrotter ball, said Klay.
The feeling I got when I saw those signatures gave me comfort. Not just because they were friends and family, but because they were people who have been in my shoes before.
They knew how hard it is to go through tough times while trying to play basketball.
In the last part of the blog post, Klay talks about what motivates him as a player and how excited he is about his new partnership with Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurants.
James Wiseman helped Klay find comfort amid loneliness of injuries originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea .
When Klay told James Wiseman about the Globetrotters ball and its signers, James offered to take it with him on his journey through Spain so that Klay would never feel lonely again.
The special Globetrotters ball
James Wiseman is a Memphis, Tennessee, product and the top prospect in the Class of 2019.
He started playing basketball as soon as he could walk and has been on a constant trajectory of improvement ever since.
He had an impressive senior year at East High School in which he led his team to a state championship, averaged 30 points per game on 71% shooting from the field and 86% from the free throw line, grabbed 11 rebounds per game and blocked three shots per contest.
He was named Mr. Basketball for Tennessee by The Tennessean for his efforts.
It’s hard to find anything that he doesn’t do well: His passing skills are excellent, he can shoot with range out to 25 feet and dribble like a guard; if there were fouls called for blocking shots or reaching for balls at the rim, Wiseman would lead the league in those categories.
He’s incredibly strong with large hands that allow him to keep possession after contact; coaches praise his willingness to play through pain and finish games without hesitation even when bloodied or bruised.
Wiseman’s combination of size, skill and toughness make him one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball.
Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and others have all made offers for him to join their programs next fall.
With nearly every program in America after his services and the potential to be picked first overall in next year’s NBA draft, Wiseman is living life as you might expect — but not always how you might think.
For example, these days he cherishes nothing more than being able to share a ball with some special people who understand what it means to be young, gifted and black.
James is a humble kid, said Justin Martin Jr., who runs Wiseman’s AAU program on behalf of Nike Elite Youth Basketball (NYBA). He really cares about people.
Klay’s return to the court
Thompson, who tore his ACL in March and played in just one game last season, was cleared for contact practice Tuesday and says he’s excited to return.
He will likely start out at the shooting guard spot and is expected to be part of a second-unit that includes Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Enes Kanter and Rodney Hood.
The 2019-2020 NBA season opens with a nationally televised game against James Wiseman’s Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 22.
On their original site, NBC Sports Bayarea tells the story of how makeshift ball helped Klay get through loneliness of injuries.
At the foot of Klay Thompson’s Chase Center locker, neatly tucked in a mound of shoes and laundry like a precious artifact from an ancient civilization, lies an old Harlem Globetrotters basketball.
At first glance it might seem out place amidst all the high tech Nike gear most players wear these days but it has meaning far beyond the typically mundane sports equipment you see every day in pro locker rooms around the country.