Southern California native Klay Thompson and dad Mychal relish Lakers vs. Warriors clash

Southern California native Klay Thompson and dad Mychal relish Lakers vs. Warriors clash

SAN FRANCISCO — Life as the son of an NBA champion exposed Klay Thompson and his two brothers to experiences no regular kids get.

As children they shook hands with Michael Jordan, chopped it up with Shaquille O’Neal at his locker and got up shots alongside Kobe Bryant warming up at Staples Center.

In an NBA career that took Mychal Thompson from Portland’s Rose Garden with Clyde Drexler to Los Angeles with Magic Johnson and, after his retirement, alongside the Trail Blazers and Lakers as a radio commentator, it was his goal to make arenas like home and teammates like family for his three boys.

“I recognized how fortunate I was as a parent to introduce them to the greats who played the game,” Thompson said in a phone conversation. “What a blessing and advantage it is for kids growing up in their father’s business, if that’s what they want to do, to meet the legends and icons to come before them.”

So for Klay, the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinal matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers that starts tonight at Chase Center isn’t just another step toward a potential fifth NBA title. It’s a homecoming he’s desperately wanted.

“I’m personally excited,” Klay Thompson said. “I get to play in front of my father, my mother, and some of my best friends and go down to SoCal after our home stand and it’s just a dream come true. I’ve waited for this for 12 years.”

Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) attempts to drive past Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (24) in the first half of an NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. It was Bryant's last game at the Oracle Arena after announcing he'll retire at the end of the season. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) attempts to drive past Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (24) in the first half of an NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. It was Bryant’s last game at the Oracle Arena after announcing he’ll retire at the end of the season. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

It’s also still a Thompson Family event. Mychal, a longtime radio color commenter for the Lakers, and Klay will somewhat face off for the first time on the playoff stage as the Warriors take on the Lakers in a playoff series for the first time since 1991. Thompson, alongside Steph Curry and Draymond Green, is facing Lakers superstar LeBron James for a fifth time in their decade-long postseason rivalry.

“This is the main event,” Mychal said. “The other series have a lot to offer, but this is the glamor series. This is the cover girl.”

Mychal always roots for his son when the two teams aren’t playing. He “couldn’t breathe until the Warriors were up 15” in their Game 7 win against the Sacramento Kings over the weekend. In the immediate aftermath, Klay had no idea where his father’s allegiance would lie for the semifinals.

“I don’t know. I really don’t,” he said. “If I had to guess, probably his employer. But I’m just excited. I have so many great memories with him watching the Lakers, watching Kobe, watching Shaq and Pau (Gasol), and the rest of the gang. So I’m just really excited to try to stick it to the team that I grew up rooting for.”

Mychal wouldn’t pick a side, saying he’s “rooting for a classic series.”

“It’s a win-win, lose-lose for me in any situation,” he said. “Sometimes I think the Lakers will win because of size and sometimes I think the Warriors will because of their groove. So we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy it. This is the matchup the casual basketball fans have been waiting for.”

Though the Thompson brothers grew up big Lakers fans, they’re all Team Klay this time around, according to his dad. That includes little brother Trayce, who plays outfield for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Big brother Mychel is a video coordinator at Golden State and certainly ‘Team Warriors’. Their mom, Julie, is ‘Team Klay’, too.

“As they should be,” Mychal said. “And the family back in the Bahamas, too. As much as they love the Lakers, it’s all about Klay for the rest of the family.”

‘Team Klay’ has deep Lakers roots, though. Thompson is a SoCal guy — still drawn to sunshine and the ocean (now on his own boat) like he was as a kid. As a player, he carries himself like Bryant, the late Lakers great he idolized growing up.

When Klay was young, Mychal would take any opportunity he could to have Bryant talk one-on-one with Klay, Trayce or Mychel. Bryant would usually pass along something cliché, telling them to compete and work hard, Mychal recalls.

Cliché or not, that advice spoke to Klay. He was a fierce competitor who “dogged other kids on defense” at a young age and showed an unusually advanced work ethic as a toddler. At nine months old he’d take all his Dr. Seuss books to the corner and try to read on his own without any prompting. From youth basketball to his pro career — his determination to overcome two major injuries in 2020 and 2021 because he didn’t understand his life without basketball — was Kobe-esque.

“I always told him he doesn’t play like Kobe,” Mychal said. “But he competes like Kobe.”

Now Klay will return where it all began hoping to prove he and the Warriors core he’s embedded with can win again.

“Whoever wins this,” Mychal said, “Could be the favorites to go to the Finals.”

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