The NBA Finals begin on Thursday between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. For Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson this is their sixth finals appearance in eight seasons. A win would be their fourth and put them in rarefied air. Curry’s legacy is pretty clear. He revolutionized the game and is one of the all-time greats. What Green has done defensively at his size and the way he unlocks the Warriors offense without being a scoring threat is the stuff of legend. But what about Thompson? What’s his legacy?
Game 6 Klay
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 28, 2022
In the Warriors’ three title victories, was Klay ever the second-best player on any of those title teams? Third-best? He’s a five-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA and made an All-Defensive team.
Thompson’s best season according to Dunks & Threes EPM metric was 2015, where he ranked in the 97th percentile of all NBA players. Since then his best finish was in the 93rd percentile in 2017.
The Basketball Reference similarity score, which used win shares as its core metric, has Thompson on par with players like Mike Conley, Baron Davis and Mitch Richmond. The latter was a six-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA and a member of the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.
As legendary as some of Thompson’s moments have been and his championship bona fides, he was left off the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. An omission that bothers him, to a point.
“Yeah, I was upset,” Klay told the Athletic. “Yeah.” Pause. “I think I’m one of the best 75. But it’s whatever, man. Honestly, I let that be a chip on my shoulder. I still think about that every time I step on the court, you know? I’ve still got something to prove.
“To be honest, I don’t even care anymore. I just want to win. If I win, if we win, that’s all that matters. NBA 100 is cool, but banners hang forever, man. I don’t care.”
Thompson’s greatest skill might not be his shooting, but his competitive spirit. His will to do whatever is necessary to help the team win championships. His skills trainer Charlie Torres sees both as intertwined.
“As great a shooter as he is,” Torres told The Shadow League, “that’s how competitive he is.”
No doubt the individual accolades are nice, but given what Thompson has gone through over the last two seasons, rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles tendon and a torn ACL, being back on this Finals stage again has to be gratifying for Thompson, as he has the opportunity to pursue the ultimate team accomplishment.
“I’m not going to mention names of competitors, but he’ll walk around the facility and carry these grudges,” team president Bob Myers said. “You know, he has this deep-seated respect for the game. So anytime anybody kind of goes for individual accolades over winning, he gets so upset. He despises the individual pursuit of greatness in lieu of team success.”
As Thompson said the NBA 100 is cool. Maybe he’ll make the Basketball Hall of Fame. But if he doesn’t, it likely won’t bother Thompson too much. So long as he and the Warriors are racking up titles, he’ll know what his legacy will be. Multiple-time champion and proven winner.