For fans of the Golden State Warriors, June 13, 2019, is a day that will live on in infamy. Because on that fateful day, not only did Golden State lose to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, but the franchise lost a key component of its very own championship DNA to a gruesome knee injury.
And of course, you read all about it here at The Root:
Klay Thompson, half of the Splash Brothers and one of the greatest shooters in the history of the league, suffered a torn ACL. Also known as arguably the second worst injury in professional basketball. Also known as a severe injury that history says Klay may or may not fully come back from.
And as if a torn ACL wasn’t bad enough, after spending the entire 2020-21 season busting his ass to bounce back from such a significant injury, things only got worse right before the 2020 NBA Draft when we learned he tore his Achilles—his second season-ending injury in consecutive years:
According to ESPN, Thompson suffered an injury to his right leg during a workout in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning with several NBA players. He underwent an MRI Thursday morning and it was revealed he suffered a tear in his Achilles tendon. While Thompson will be out for the season, he is expected to make a full recovery from the injury.
The Devil is a musty bastard.
For two and a half excruciatingly long, arduous seasons—most of which the Warriors spent not winning jack shit—NBA fans have watched our beloved Klay pout and sulk on the sidelines, looking completely fucking miserable as he fantasized about his eventual return. But on Sunday night, after 941 days of torment, rehab, and anguish, the skies parted and the three-time NBA champion—who inexplicably wasn’t celebrated as one of the league’s top 75 players of all-time (nigga, what?!)—made his triumphant return to the hardwood.
And in honor of such a momentous occasion, the 31-year-old’s teammates came dressed for this milestone and prepared accordingly for #KlayDay:
Don’t think Klay didn’t get plenty of love prior to the game either, as Chase Center was electric from the moment the five-time NBA All-Star hit the court during warm-ups up until his introduction once the game finally started:
Considering this was his first taste of NBA action since In Living Color got canceled, we all knew there’d be some rust. And there was. But in 20 minutes of limited action, that doesn’t mean Klay didn’t leave a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor.
On the offensive end, he was aggressive as hell. Instead of coming off screens and looking for open threes, he was pounding the rock while hunting for his shots and—to my surprise—even dunking on motherfuckers:
And as one of the league’s greatest perimeter defenders prior to his injuries, don’t think Klay wasn’t giving the Cavs that work on the other end of the floor, too:
By the time the dust settled, the Warriors didn’t play particularly great on the offensive end of the floor—Steph’s shooting slump from behind the arc appears to have no end in sight—but Klay finished with 17 points (shooting 7-18 from the floor) to help push his team past the Cavs 96-82 at Chase Center.
“I was so excited I saw a lane to the basket that I just took the opportunity,” he said of his opening drive to the basket. “ After that, I thought it was going to be one of those nights where I might be unconscious. I did not shoot as well as I wanted to but I’m so happy I can even look at the stat sheet and see my name there. It’s been a long run. I’m not going to say it equivalent to winning a championship but it was pretty close.”
He continued, “I tried to visualize this moment for years. I’m just excited to get it out of the way now and I can get back in the rhythm of things. This is unbelievable. This is worth every second.”
And for those wondering how Steph Curry feels about adding one of the greatest two-way players in the history of the game to a team that was already 29-9 while laying waste to man, woman, and child all season:
Welcome back, Klay. The game missed you.