What Klay Thompson’s Return Means To Me, The Warriors, and The Bay Area

Yinon Raviv
6 min readJan 9, 2022
Credits to Jack Perkins, @purehoop on Twitter and Instagram

From my years watching sports, there’s something I’ve noticed when watching professional athletes try to project their charisma.

It’s a hard needle to thread, because you and I could never relate to spending twelve hours a day, every day of the week, on one particular thing all throughout our childhoods. We also couldn’t relate to earning millions of dollars in our early twenties, going from city to city, and playing a sport in front of packed arenas of screaming fans.

Professional athletes have a hard time coming across as authentic and relatable, like someone you’d actually know, because chances are you don’t know anybody like them. It makes it all the more special when a celebrity successfully presents as a person in your life rather than a person on your screen.

I mean, how many celebrities can actually remind you of your friends? How many of them have specific mannerisms that light up the pattern matching regions of your brain to the point where you think to yourself, “that’s what it is! He acts just like my buddy, So-and-so!”

If there was a name for this, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors would be who you’d use as the example. Klay reminds me of certain kids I met through Bay Area Jewish summer camp and youth group events — the kids that grew up in the Oakland Hills. The East Bay had a certain vibe that the South Bay didn’t… those East Bay Jewish kids seemed less pressured by school, less tightly held by their parents, more down to roam around and cause trouble.

They were simultaneously cooler and weirder, and it was a different type of cool than the star quarterback/cheerleader cool you’d see on Disney Channel. They were quirky, spacey, unbothered, confident, and detached. No interest of theirs made them feel like nerds or weirdos — if they were into it, they were into it, and you would feel like the nerd for not nerding out over it, too. They followed the beat of their own drum, and often enough, everybody else would dance along.

Klay always felt like that to me. I don’t know the guy myself, but I’ve only really encountered his wavelength from those chill kids from Berkeley. It’s more goofy than an outright swagger, a sweet weirdness mixed with high self esteem… he just seems like a homie.

It’s almost like somebody took that kind of East Bay Jewish kid I was describing earlier and turned them into a 6’7 NBA sharpshooter. That’s how I visualize it, in my head, and in that strange head of mine I really do wonder what it’s like to be a younger NBA player playing with Klay Thompson.

I imagine that generally, NBA locker rooms have a bunch of high strung, type A, super intense perfectionists, as I imagine most NBA players are (I mean, don’t you have to be?). What is it like having that counterbalance that role models being both extremely passionate about your career AND doing your own thing? What’s it like getting to work with someone who derives meaning but doesn’t base their entire sense of identity from basketball?

It’s tricky in any space, any career path to walk that tightrope. Steph and Dray, in their own ways, seem to also embody that unique combination, as guys that take basketball extremely seriously and passionately but still maintain a sense of balance in their lives. Steph, however, is a superstar, and Draymond seems like kind of a dick. They’re not necessarily relatable in the sense that Klay is, so it’s harder to visualize what it’d be like to interact with them on a daily basis.

Klay, I have specific names and faces. So it enables daydreaming, and the player I wonder about the most is James Wiseman. He’ll be the ultimate test case of the Klay Thompson effect, because their relationship came together under a fascinating set of conditions. You take a young guy that’s unusually self-aware and thoughtful, and you put him through a similar challenge that Klay’s going through at the exact same time — two players at opposite points in their careers sitting in the same training room, spending much more time together than they would have if just one of them was healthy.

What will emerge out of this?

Wiseman won’t come back for a while now, but I’m also intrigued to see Klay’s impact on the other role players. Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr are already massively outplaying their roles. Klay will, reasonably, take away minutes from a lot of players, but he’ll also lessen the load on their existing minutes — whether on the court, as a floor spacer, or when he’s on the bench, having helped the starters cushion the lead. He expands everyone else’s margins for error, raises the collective freedom of the group. Draymond might raise the team’s IQ, but Klay raises the team’s EQ.

What will emerge out of that?

If he’s largely himself again, he also gives the front office leeway with their roster construction next season. The GPIIs and the Otto Porter Jrs are playing themselves into big money, and Klay helps Bob Myers breathe a little easier if those guys leave. Just his presence alone will help attract the next ring-chasing vet, reinforcing the viability of the Golden State Warriors. Klay is the rising tide lifting all the boats, and it’s about damn time he spends less time as a part-time sailor and more time as a full-time hardwood tidal wave.

That’s the thing with being a fan of Klay Thompson. You can get so swept away by his basketball abilities that you can forget about his personality, and you can get so lost in Klay’s space cadet adventures that you forget that he’s an absolute beast. He’s left a huge void in Bay Area sports since he last played, and with everything that’s changed so dramatically over the past two years — and this is a region accustomed to change — there’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity with seeing #11 lace it up. It’s like an old friend moved back to your neighborhood.

As of recently, the Bay Area has seen the opposite: friends moving away rather than back. The Bay Area needs Klay Thompson back as much as his team does, as much as the league does. There’s been too many goodbyes and not enough hellos… how special is it that we get to say hello again to somebody who we thought we were saying goodbye to?

When he sank those free throws in Oracle, on his freshly torn ACL, we thought we were saying goodbye to the arena and we hoped we weren’t saying goodbye to the player. Half a year later, we realized that those goodbyes ended up being the least of our concerns. The last two and a half years have felt like twenty, and now we don’t take our hellos for granted nearly as much anymore.

Klay Thompson, hello again. Tonight has been a long time coming, and tipoff can’t come soon enough.