Klay Thompson is a Warriors legend: Forgive him if his ego got a little bruised on the way out

Whatever degree of resentment Klay Thompson has toward the Golden State Warriors as his historic run with the organization has come to an end is understandable. That doesn’t mean it’s justified, but it’s at least understandable. He was always the easiest component of the dynasty to mention last, if only for the fact that every other principle had a more uniquely identifiable value. 

Stephen Curry was the best player. Draymond Green was the best defender. Kevin Durant was the hired gun. Steve Kerr was the coach that flipped the entire offensive system, and in doing so, took a team that won 51 games and lost in the first round under Mark Jackson and turned it into a 67-win team that won Golden State’s first championship in 40 years. Even Andre Iguodala was seen as the heart of the “Death Lineup.”

Thompson is probably the second greatest shooter ever, but he was never the best shooter on his own team. He was a great defender, but never the best defender on his own team. Insecurity can be a great athlete’s greatest fuel, but when Thompson’s standing within the only organization that he’s ever known began to mirror the decline of his game, we saw that it can go the other way, too. 

He tried to say he doesn’t care what people say, but he heard the talk. He was bristly with reporters. He made sure Devin Booker, along with the rest of the world, knew how many championship he’s won. He watched Jordan Poole and Green get a combined $240 million in contract extensions while reportedly turning down the two-year, $48M deal he was offered last summer. 

Now, he’s reportedly signing with the Dallas Mavericks for $50M over three years, which is significantly less than what Golden State once offered on an annual basis. There’s an astute line in the movie Moneyball where Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill, says to Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, that the record-breaking deal offered to Beane by the Red Sox isn’t actually about the money. It’s about what the money says. 

“That you’re worth it.”

Over the last two years, the Warriors, no matter what spin they have tried to put on it, have told Thompson at every turn that he is no longer worth it. They took him out of the closing lineup. They took him out of the starting lineup. When they offered Thompson that $48M deal, and then took that off the table, it was no longer about the money. It was about Thompson’s relationship with the Warriors. And his ego. Both, in the end, were too damaged to be salvaged. 

So now he goes to Dallas, where he will no doubt have a premium-sized chip on his shoulder to show that the Warriors got it wrong. They didn’t. But again, it’s understandable that Thompson would feel he’s worth more than the Warriors communicated with their relative silence. The guy averaged 19 PPG last season on 39% 3-point shooting. Hell, he only averaged 21-22 PPG in his prime. 

That’s not to say he’s anywhere close to the player he was before the injuries, because he’s not, especially defensively. But don’t let the shadow of his past blind you from the things he can still do. He’s still going to be a terrifying shooter whose off-ball movement is going to be a nightmare to track, while also devoting the necessary amount of attention to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. He’s going to help the Mavericks. 

And in time, he’s hopefully going to realize that the Warriors did right by him for as long as they reasonably could. They gave the guy a $189M contract after he tore his ACL in the 2019 Finals. They paid him north of $70M over a two-year span in which he didn’t play a single game. 

He earned that, and rest assured, nobody with any sort of basketball sense in their head will ever forget, or even slightly undervalue, what Thompson did for the Warriors. The guy is a legend. His No. 11 will be in the rafters, as the team already confirmed. But the simple truth is this: The Warriors are square with Thompson, just as the Bulls are with Scottie Pippen or the Spurs are with Manu Ginibili. It’s Jordan, Duncan and Curry to whom these organizations will be forever indebted. 

And in that regard, as long as we’re talking who’s owed what, the Warriors owe it to the greatest player in franchise history, the player who has made owner Joe Lacob about a zillion dollars, to make every attempt to put their best possible team on the floor for however much longer he’s playing at a superstar level, which Curry still is. That couldn’t happen while also committing the type of money and role to Thompson that he still believes he’s worth. So he had to go. He’s not the first Hall of Famer to feel slighted by the business of basketball, and he won’t be the last. 

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