Klay Thompson is back where he belongs

Coug alum leads Warriors to sixth finals in eight years



Former WSU basketball player and current NBA player Klay Thmpson waves a shirt above his head during the basketball game against OSU Saturday afternoon at Beasley Coliseum. Thompson had his jersey retired during halftime, becoming the second player to have his jersey retired as a Cougar.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

On Thursday, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors did what few have ever done.

They punched their ticket to their sixth NBA Finals in eight years.

The WSU alum and his Golden State Warriors teammates Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala join Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics, two distinct iterations of the Los Angeles Lakers (one led by Jerry West and the next led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and most recently Michael Jordan and the 90s Chicago Bulls as players to accomplish such a feat with one team. Thompson’s coach Steve Kerr was a part of three of those championship-winning Bulls teams. 

The Lakers’ and Celtics’ respective records are even more impressive than six of eight, of course, but that is a topic worthy of another article. 

The Warriors’ history in the finals is one of dominance and heartbreak as they appeared for five straight years, the first four against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors took three out of four of these contests, winning in 2015, losing in 2016, and capturing back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

The Warriors fifth straight finals, this time against the Toronto Raptors, contained more heartbreak as star Kevin Durant struggled with injuries allowing him to only play in game five. In game six, Thompson attempted a fastbreak dunk only to be contested from behind by Raptor Danny Green. Thompson fell to the floor in obvious pain, exited, then reentered to attempt two free throws before exiting the game for good.

Thompson was taken to the hospital and discovered he had torn his ACL and that the Warriors had lost the finals.

In the fallout of their finals loss and with Thompson on the long road to recovery, Durant left the Warriors, and star Steph Curry suffered a hand injury early in the 2019-20 season. The Warriors won just 15 games, and missed the playoffs for the first time since Thompson’s rookie year of 2011-12.

In January 2020, Thompson returned to Pullman to see his Cougar #1 jersey hung in the rafters of Beasley Coliseum, where in three dominant seasons, he became the best player in WSU Men’s basketball history.

“No matter what [uniform] I put on – hopefully a Warriors for the rest of my career – I will always be a Coug,” Thompson said during the awards ceremony. 

Anticipating a return for the 2020-21 season, Thompson suffered a dire setback by tearing his Achilles’ tendon.

Despite Thompson’s absence, the Warriors had a much better 2020-21 before meeting their match against the upstart Grizzlies in the play-in tournament.

On Jan. 9, 2022, Klay. Was. Back. Thompson wasted no time scoring a layup 40 seconds into his first game back which was, ironically, against his old finals friends, the Cavaliers. 

Thompson finished the night with 17 points; a performance that brought tears to the eyes of Warriors fans, basketball fans and proud Cougs everywhere.

Since his triumphant return, Thompson has looked like his old self, with top ten averages in points (20.4 tied for fifth) and assists (2.8, seventh).

In games 1-4 of the Western Conference finals, the Dallas Mavericks were keeping Thompson at bay from beyond the arch, as he sank just three threes throughout the four games. In game five, he came alive, shooting 8/16 from downtown San Francisco. Thompson’s journey back to the top is spectacular and makes Cougs everywhere proud.

From Washington State to the Golden State, Thompson’s journey is far from over as his chase for another ring continues at Chase Center on June 2.