A gift that gave chills to everyone involved 

Former WSU standout Klay Thompson surprised a young fan with gift before Warriors-Bucks game  



Klay Thompson speaks during halftime of the WSU vs OSU basketball game. Thompson had his jersey retired, becoming the second person to have his basketball jersey retired at WSU.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Editor-in-chief

SAN FRANCISCO – Braulio Noriega, now missing his lower left leg because of cancer, received the surprise of his life at a Golden State Warriors game. The young man received the gift of a custom wheelchair built for playing basketball from Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson just shortly before tipoff against the Milwaukee Bucks, March 11.

The moment also meant so much to Thompson, who cut short his extensive pregame shooting routine to present the special gift.

“It put everything in perspective before I ran out the tunnel just how blessed I am to play this game and the impact I can have on the youth and how you never know who’s watching,” Thompson said hours later. “Sometimes, because we’re a team, we play 82 to 100 games a year, but it’s a special opportunity to be able to inspire people when you play in the NBA and I’ll never take that for granted.”

Noriega, a San Jose, California native, struggled to put into words the emotions that he was feeling after meeting one of his favorite players and receiving a custom gift.

“Getting to meet and get the gift from him, just so much emotion. I can’t even express what I felt like,” said Noriega, who turned 16 on March 14.

He plays wheelchair basketball for the Junior Road Warriors with dreams of playing in college and eventually overseas or for his home country of Mexico.

Former WSU guard Thompson scored 22 points in the electric 125-116 overtime win against the NBA-best Bucks, a win certainly needed to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Thomson has always been a prominent figure in the communities he has been a part of. Playing at WSU (2008–11), he earned two All-Pac-10 selections and had his No. 1 jersey retired by the school in 2020.

In terms of community service, he earned the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for November 2014, took part in the 2019 NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service and donated $1,000 for every point scored in a three-game 2017 stretch to aid in fire relief.

However, he has counted on his own community even more in recent years. He returned to the court in January 2022 after missing more than 2 ½ years because of surgeries on his left knee and right Achilles tendon and all the grueling rehab that followed both procedures.

“Going to school in Pullman, you know how tight-knit the community is, how special a place that is when you’re a Coug. It’s really a family atmosphere. I’ve grown up in places that were very populated my whole life,” Thompson said. “Then when I went to Pullman, that small-town vibe and that community really had a huge impact on me. I still keep in touch with a lot of people from the city. Just a special place. I feel the same with being a Warrior in the Bay Area. Our impact goes beyond basketball.”

He takes pride in his community and former school, having a friendly bet with Warriors coach Steve Kerr based on when the Cougs and Kerr’s alma mater Arizona face off in any sport.

Thompson’s Splash Brother Stephen Curry and Kerr have seen Thompson evolve both on and off the floor through his injury ordeal. They were thrilled, but not surprised, to see what Thompson did for Noriega.

“For him to do it before the game and take a little bit of the time, it’s very obviously a selfless act and y’know not a surprise, Klay’s, y’know that type of guy. But it’s the beauty of what basketball is and this platform that we have,” Curry said.

Kerr knows that Thompson is not one to do charitable acts for notoriety and attention.

“Klay’s got a huge heart. He’s got great compassion for people,” Kerr said. “Everyone looks at Klay and sees this guy who is happy-go-lucky, but he is very deep in terms of his emotion and care for people.”

When Thompson’s long night was done at last and he had folded his postgame paper airplane as he does on the podium for media interviews, he let the plane fly in his signature “see-ya later” toss, ending his incredible night.