It was a moment that has gone down in sports history. With barely two minutes left in the third quarter of Game 6 during the Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors NBA Finals in 2019, Thompson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. Danny Green goes up to contest the shot and after a brutal landing, Thompson hits the court floor. As worried fans watched the scene unfold and Thompson was helped to the locker room, this would only be the first setback in his long-overdue return to the league.
Just as the 2020-21 season was about to begin, Thompson tore the Achilles’ tendon in his right leg during a workout with the team in November. The chances of him playing for that season were looking slim and the Warriors franchise confirmed this dreadful suspicion on November 19, 2020, as they announced his fate: another missed season.
The road to recovery was anything but easy. While the physical aspect of his return was covered at length by the media, Thompson also explained the mental toll his injuries took on him. Since he was in a boot during the early days of his rehab process, he was unable to do many of the physical activities he had once enjoyed, even besides basketball. Thompson recently invested in a boat to help him explore the California coast and says nature has helped lift his spirits.
Nonetheless, the 941-day wait was finally over for Dub Nation on January 9, 2022 in what the league called “Klay Day” when Thompson was announced as part of the starting lineup along with Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney. The rest of the Warriors all wore Thompson jerseys when arriving at the arena in celebration of his return.
Chase Center was electric with energy the entire night, especially as Thompson made his bucket back which just so happened to be the Warriors’ first points of the game, too. In a little under 20 minutes of playing time, Thompson scored 17 points (three of which were three-pointers) in addition to having one block, one assist, and three rebounds. He was 7-18 from the field and 3-8 from behind the arc. As if the game wasn’t special enough already, Thompson also reached 12,000 career points.
As he checked out for the night, Golden State Warriors fans gave Thompson a standing ovation. At the end of the game, The Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 96-82 win. Currently, the Warriors are second seed in the West with 31 wins and 11 losses for the season.
During his postgame, Thompson mentioned the nerves he felt going into the game as well as all the love he received from Warriors fans leading up to and on the day of his first game back.
“It was special, man. This is a night I will never forget and it lived up to all the hype and I’m just very grateful for our fan base. It’s incredible.”
Thompson’s comeback also brought in record engagement, according to NBA Communications. It was the most-viewed regular season moment ever with 110 million views over all of the league’s social media platforms and the most-viewed game during the regular season since 2016 with about 844,000 people tuning in nationwide.
Despite an unexpected two years away from the game, Thompson is the same player fans had always remembered him to be. Scoring a poster dunk with two defenders on him and raining threes as per usual, (minus the injury this time), Thompson might find himself exactly where he was in his career before his injuries: in the NBA finals.