- Klay Thompson is one of the NBA's most interesting men. A sniper on the court and philanthropist off it, he talked to The Crossover about the Warriors and his foundation.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson—a four-time All-Star, a two-time champion, and the guy who shot your favorite team out of the gym—announced this week his family, in partnership with Opus Bank, will launch the Thompson Family Foundation, a charitable organization looking to make an impact in the communities of Oakland, Southern California and Nassau, Bahamas, the hometown of Thompson’s father, Mychal.
“I’m so excited to even have this opportunity,” Thompson told The Crossover. “I know a lot of athletes have had foundations in the past, but I’ve been very blessed. It’s not the Klay Thompson Foundation, it’s the Thompson family. We’ll all be able to give influence.”
Thompson said he would love for the foundation to have an immediate impact in education and athletics, the two things he credits for giving him the platform to be a philanthropist in the first place. When he’s not busy chasing championships with the Warriors, Thompson hopes to hold basketball camps for kids or spend time reading with them at the local library.
After the announcement of the foundation, Thompson chatted with The Crossover about his dog Rocco, a rivalry with the Houston Rockets, a return trip to China, and much more.
Rohan Nadkarni: What’s the happiest moment you’ve shared with your dog Rocco?
Klay Thompson: Oooh. That’s a good question, damn. Happiest moment with Rocco? Shoot. Probably the day I got him. He was just a little puppy, he was pretty cute. I hadn’t had a dog since I was a kid. Picking him up my rookie year, he was a great companion. And any time we go to the park it’s a beautiful day. I’m so lucky when it’s a great day, some sunshine and beautiful weather. We have beautiful scenery. I like to take him to the park three or four times a week. Get away from the court, get away from the house, go outside and get some fresh air. Every day at the park I’m good and the first day I got him. It’s really everyday, man. [Laughs]
RN: People who follow the NBA closely know you have one of the funnier personalities in the league. How do you manage to stay so laid back despite all the attention and pressure on your team?
KT: Oh, man, I mean, I probably learned early in my career not to take things too serious. Even when our owner Joe Lacob told me my first year on the court to have fun. My first two years I thought, “This is my business. I’m trying to win. Blah blah.” But now I realize you really have to enjoy it, and live in the present. It goes by so fast, it’s like a snap. My dad told me that before I even got into the league, you’ll look back at the end and realize how fast it went. So I try to live by that motto and try to enjoy every day. And every dog day too, where it’s like game 65 and you’re itching to get to the playoffs. But you have to enjoy every night. Whether it’s last night against the Nets, or a big game in the West. I don’t take things too serious. Enjoy what you got. That’s what helps me relax. I learned that around my third or fourth year in the NBA.
RN: Your dad has a very interesting Twitter account. Do you ever tell him to tone it down or anything like that? Or does he just not really care either way?
KT: He doesn’t care! He’s kicking it. He has pretty funny tweets, and it’s a side of him that people don’t normally see. He’s new to Twitter, it’s still fresh for him. The ratio of his tweets to mine is probably crazy. I just let him do it. It’s a way for him to vent and have fun. That’s how he talks, he does it on purpose, which is funny to me.
RN: As fans, we get really excited to see you play in these big games on Saturday nights or Thursdays. We want to see you play against the best competition. Do you still get excited for those games? Or is it just like, let the playoffs start already?
KT: I don’t lose sleep over them like I used to, because I was nervous. But once I run through that tunnel, I still get hyped up. I still want to play my hardest. I just hate to lose. But obviously come playoff time we still need 16 wins to get that trophy. Even now, though, when I come through the tunnel and see the fan and those lights, I get excited. We’re so lucky, man. Even in my rookie year we would sell out games—18,000, 19 strong. Now it’s just crazy. It’s every night. Not many teams get to do that.
RN: I’m sure you get asked this to some extent, but describe to a normal person how you stay driven to win a championship every year. How do you fight complacency? Why is it important for Klay Thompson to win a third championship, a fourth, a fifth?
KT: You just want to be mentioned with all the legends. You want to be mentioned with all the teams that will live forever. The Showtime Lakers. The Bulls. The Kobe-Shaq Lakers. Teams that stood the test of time. You always saw them on TV. And nothing is ever guaranteed. I thought 2016, that year was guaranteed to hang another banner but obviously we didn’t. With injuries or free agency, you never know how long one team is going to stay together. Obviously with our current team now we have at least a couple more years together. Hopefully it’s forever, but you just want to take advantage now and get as many as you can while you can. You never know what’s guaranteed.
RN: Obviously a lot of people are looking at the Rockets as your toughest competition this year. There’s already been a little bit of a back and forth between you guys. Do you guys consider that a rivalry? What’s it like when you guys have kind of separated yourselves from everyone else?
KT: They’ve had success against us this year, they’re 2–1. We both want to win it so bad that there’s going to be a natural rivalry, especially if we see each other down the line. But we don’t single out the Rockets or differentiate them from every other team, because we know how talented the other top teams are. The Spurs have been without Kawhi all year, so we’re waiting to see them at full strength, they’re dangerous. Couple teams in the East. The T-Wolves when they’re full strength. The Rockets have been doing it—win streaks, playing at such a high level, greatest offense in history. It’s natural for people to compare us to them. But we probably don’t think about it as much as fans do, and say, 'We have to go through them,' until that time comes in the postseason.
RN: You’ve got the All-Stars and the championships. What’s the one thing you’ve been able to do over the last few years because of all your team’s success that made you think, 'I can’t believe I get to do this?'
KT: Probably going to the White House to see Obama. That was a shock. I never really thought I would get to go inside or go there as a champion. That was really cool. Or the parade, still. Those are so epic, seeing a million people in the streets. Everyone was so happy. That’s probably the other moment when I was like, 'I can’t believe we did this.' I remember my rookie year, we saw how passionate the fans were and we only won 23 games. I was like, imagine if this team won a championship what the parade would look like. So seeing that dream come true was really, really special.
KT: Augusta….? I’m not sure what you’re—Augusta, Georgia?
RN: Yeah, Augusta, Georgia, I believe.
KT: Aw, man. Hopefully I get to play that course one day.
RN: Coming into the league, what did you want to accomplish, and what are you still chasing now?
KT: I did want to be an All-Star when I first got into the league, and that came true which was pretty sweet. Other than that, being a champion. That was incredible as well. I can’t believe I get to say these things. I just want to maximize my potential. If I do that, those two things can come into play. Some of my favorite players growing up were the hardest workers. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin. Those guys put everything they had in the game, and I just want to follow that path. That’s why I was such a fan of Kobe. Whatever you think of him, you have to respect the man’s work ethic. He really gave everything he had to basketball. A psychotic work ethic, getting up so early and stuff. That’s how passionate he was. I respect guys like that. I’m not saying I get up that early, but that’s the kind of work I want to put in my career. I want to leave it all on the floor. We only have one chance to do this, so that’s all I’ll ask of myself.
RN: Are you going back to China this summer?
KT: Duh! I go back every summer my man! Same for 2018. That’s a good trip. I love going to China. That’s one thing too—I never thought I would have fans overseas. Whether it’s getting to go to Spain, or especially in China. These fans are 5,000 miles away, wearing your stuff, so happy to see you on site, in awe of your shooting, your skill. I never thought that would happen. To have fans on different continents, it’s cool, man. I’m very thankful.