It’s been 941 days since Klay Thompson has played an NBA game, as he's been rehabbing a torn ACL and a torn Achilles’ tendon. But Sunday night was “Klay Day,” as he made his much anticipated return to the floor at the Chase Center for the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The crowd erupted as Klay was being announced as a starter for the first time in over two-and-a-half years; you could see the focus on his face, and his teammates visibly wanted to see him get going.
Less than a minute into the game, Thompson came off a screen for a floater on his first attempt. And a few moments later, he hit his first three-pointer to surpass 12,000 career points.
Later, he drove the lane, got in between two different Cavs big men and dunked, which caused the fans and the Warriors' bench to explode.
ðŸ¤¯ KLAY THOMPSON JUST DROPPED THE HAMMER ðŸ¤¯— NBA (@NBA) January 10, 2022
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And for the rest of the game, every time he touched the ball, Dub Nation was ready to erupt. This was definitely a long time coming.
With the basketball world collectively applauding Thompson's return, I reached out to his former coach Mark Jackson to get his reaction on Klay's big night and 17-point performance.
Etan Thomas: How do you feel seeing Klay Thompson battle his way back to the court after two-and-a-half years?
Mark Jackson: "Yeah, I can speak as far as a guy that once had the privilege of coaching him. I also had the privilege of calling games where he's won championships and have great moments, and also as a fan of basketball. I think it's tremendous to have him back. It truly is an awesome opportunity to see him back. The game missed him, he missed the game a tremendous amount. But I think at the same time, we missed him, and I say that because they don't make them like Klay Thompson. He's a guy that's passionate, [has an] incredible competitive spirit, [is] incredibly driven to be great and never satisfied. I think we need more players and more people like him. It's going to be exciting to have him back."
Etan: I think that his battle back from his injuries is really inspirational for younger athletes as well, because they're going to go through series or times when they have injuries. But having the strength, and the courage, and the wherewithal to battle back...
Jackson: "He has documented it at different stages during the course of his rehab, and I think he documented it to the benefit of those that are going through similar injuries. And not just on the court, but battles in life in general. He's a guy that has fought, scratched and clawed, and did everything he possibly can to see [Sunday night], the opportunity to be back on the court. And I'm proud of him, and I think he's a tremendous example of how to stick with it."
Etan: When you coached him, you saw that he was going to be great. And you called it, you said him [and Steph Curry] were going to be one of the greatest duos of all time at a young age. What is it that you saw in him and Steph that made you make that statement even at a young age for them?
Jackson: "Both guys, you don't have to beg them to get on the court. You don't have to beg them to come into the gym. They had incredible talent, incredible gifts, and it was matched with an incredible desire to be great. I don't care where you were — whether it's in an arena in front of 20,000, or an empty gym with 10 dudes — if you roll the ball out on the floor, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are going to be ready to play, and they're going to get shots up, and if it's just two of them, they're going to play 1-on-1, and get shots up... and if other guys are willing, they're going to play 5-on-5. But you don't to have to beg them to get into the gym. They had it from day one, and the credit goes to the Curry family and the Thompson family. Great genes, for tremendous... not just all-time great champions, but all-time great guys when it comes to pros in this game."