How special ball helped Klay get through loneliness of injuries originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO — At the foot of Klay Thompson’s Chase Center locker, neatly tucked in a mound of shoes and laundry like a precious baby bird egg, is a Globetrotters basketball that the Warriors guard loves. For real love.
“You’ve seen ‘Cast Away’?” Thompson asked. “You’ve seen Tom Hanks’ relationship with Wilson the volleyball? My situation wasn’t that detrimental, but sometimes it just feels like you’re on an island.”
Thompson’s island lasted 941 days in between games. He tore his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. After knee surgery and more than a year-long rehab, just as he was on the cusp of playing again, Thompson tore his Achilles in a pre-camp pick-up game.
Another season gone.
Thompson said he knows he wasn’t alone on the island. The Warriors’ training staff and James Wiseman joined him in big empty gyms, but the sad mental solitude that Thompson felt when he was away from the game made him look anywhere for comfort. He found it in the ball.
“I just love the colors of it,” he said. “I love when you shoot it, it spins so beautiful. I would dribble around everyday during my rehab stints.”
Thompson cannot recall exactly when the Globetrotters gave him the ball, but his best guess is the final season at Oracle Arena in Oakland. On Halloween, Thompson walked into Oracle dressed as Jackie Moon from the movie “Semi-Pro.” He spun the ball easily on his finger, like a globe rotating on its axis, before injuries wrecked his world.
“I just kept it in my locker,” he said. “And that late November day when I did tear my Achilles and I got back to the Bay a month later, it was there. Honestly, I’d rather dribble that than check my phone. It’s like a stress-ball-type of thing for me.”
Thompson said the ball is honest. It lets you know if you’re a good shooter. The red, white and blue panels reveal the spin. When Thompson carried the ball to his 2021 media day interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, he said the ball has “magic powers.”
Steph Curry understands how the ball became Klay’s talisman.
“There’s something to that. The contrast in the panels … you can see the spin a lot better than a normal NBA ball,” Steph said. ‘Whatever comfort it brings him, whatever joy it brings him, it matters. Because he can rely on it. I guess there’s a reason it’s still around.”
An honest ball would note Thompson’s shooting percentages are down this season. In nine games this season, Thompson is shooting 36 percent from the field and 32.6 percent on 3-pointers, off his career averages of 45.6 percent and 41.5 percent, respectively.
Thompson said he’ll return the ball to his workout rotation to help him through that early season funk.
“That ball would say to me that shooters shoot,” he said. “… That ball signifies perseverance, dedication, determination because it was honestly with me every day.”
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Thompson then grew quiet and trailed off like he was in his memories, back on the island when things became tough.
“I love her, man. That ball helped us win a championship, to be real.”
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