retrieve top 5 moments

SAN FRANCISCO – After playing his first game in 941 days, Klay Thompson kept repeating himself: The wait was worth it.

There was no shortage of emotions inside a sold-out chase center for Thompson’s return, which spanned more than two seasons. When it was over, after 17 points on 20 shots in 18 minutes, all that was left was to drown in the spectacle.

“I will never forget this night,” Thompson said. “I will never forget the welcome the Warriors fans gave us, especially myself. Gosh, it’s fun. It was worth putting away and having that squat rack or that shuttle board every single day. All the conditioning days, it was worth every single moment. ,

introduction

“That’s baaaak,” voiced the public address system.

The lights had dimmed. Pyrotechnics hung overhead from behind the scoreboard. Promotional music boomed. The players danced under the basket, one after another, introduced to Kevon Looney, then Andrew Wiggins, then Drummond Green, then Steph Curry.

The arena was already buzzing when it was time for Thompson’s name. Fans responded with the first four standing ovations, which lasted about 30 seconds; Next will come after his first basket, a rumble dunk, and his final replacement – but we’ll get to that.

That’s the moment Steve Kerr said he would be with her.

Thompson, the last player left sitting on the bench while his teammates bounced around the dimly lit court, allowed himself to soak it all up.

One thought was all that crossed his mind.

“Just, ‘Whoa,’ Thompson said. “That’s all that was going through my mind: ‘This is unbelievable. It’s worth every second.'”

Curry gave up his usual title spot in the Warriors introduction so that Thompson could have his moment.

“To listen to that crowd, knowing that he’s gone through so many ups and downs over the past two years, that was the moment he could celebrate that journey and just hang around,” Curry said. “It gave. That moment certainly gave.”

Curry said his hair was gone. Looney said he choked.

“It’s like watching a thriller … a boxing movie and watching a man get off the ground,” Looney said. “It’s one of those moments you’ll always remember.”

first bucket

Kerr has reminded his players in the days and weeks after Thompson rejoined him on the court that if anyone gets his shots, it’s Thompson; There is no point in forcing him to bowl.

So when he took back the first game of Thompson’s first game, it was not intended to move Thompson’s first bucket as well. But kale was just kale. Intended to act as a bait, Thompson received the ball from Andrew Wiggins and, instead of passing it, let a floater go as he turned the corner into the lane.

The crowd waited with bated breath, then erupted. Forty seconds had elapsed from the game clock.

“I was so excited, I saw a lane to the basket and I just took the chance, and it was a really hard floater,” Thompson said. “After he walked in, I thought it might be one of those nights where I might faint.”

He said that Curry should have come off the screen as another option. But in the huddle, Thompson offered a clue as to what might have happened.

“As he was preparing it, he didn’t even get a chance to write it, and Kel was like, ‘No, can we turn it the other way?’ Because he likes to come out catch-and-shoot,” Curry said. “And the coach stumbled, like, ‘No, there’s another option in the end. Forget it, we’re going to drive it here. If you can get it, shoot it.'”

“I was really careful not to create a play for him because I thought he would get too excited,” Kerr said. He said, ‘He just saw the opening and he attacked and scored runs. It was an unprecedented moment. … I should have known better.”

sting

About 3 minutes before halftime, as the shot clock went off, Thompson saw an opportunity to test his surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Injury athletes are notorious for their explosiveness.

Thompson admitted that, over the past two and a half years, doubts entered his head. Will I have the same pop? Will I have the same reactive reflexes?

So, when Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen switched to ball-handler Thompson, he passed it and set off at a destination, blown right past: the rim. In an instant, Thompson was there, sinking two other Cavaliers and making a vigorous end to his recovery.

“He’s talking about how he feels and what’s going to be the last thing to come back, and that was the answer. It took him nine minutes. He got down the lane and told her to go upstairs and try.” had faith, even, and accomplished it. It was vicious.”

Looney, who is no stranger to the rehab process, understood the importance of Thompson’s sting.

“All my time here, when Kel’s knee and Achilles were right, I can’t remember being stung like that,” Looney said. “I know from experience, it’s the last thing that comes. It took me a while to get over my fear of being able to trust your body, and it looks like it’s already there.”

Thompson kicked back on the defense, looking sideways and rolling his upper lip to mark the occasion with a mean mug. His teammates, who jumped from their seats on the bench and lay on the floor, offered a more enthusiastic response.

“I feel like myself,” Thompson said. “It just took a few minutes.”

Make it ready

Before the doors opened to fans, players were already on the court in various Thompson jerseys, their way of honoring “Clay Day”. But the real show of support came as the doors opened, with fans packed rows deep on the railing above the tunnel, and Thompson emerged for the first time.

Curry has been known to draw crowds for his warm-up routine, but even he had to check himself.

“It felt like sport,” Curry said. “Everyone was going crazy.”

Thompson took his first warm-up shot, a baseline jumper, and the assembled crowd exploded. There was still an hour left for tipoff. He followed the same pattern for Thompson’s first six practice shots, a welcome not seen before for any warrior, even Curry.

“That was awesome,” Thompson said. “I love my Warriors fans. I know they were hurting me for the last two years. That was special. I knew it was going to be lightning tonight. I tried to imagine this moment for years, really. Oh my god, it was worth every second. ,

sports ball

Thompson followed Curry into the tunnel after the warm-up, giving fans a subtle fist pump. When the game was over and his media engagements were satisfied, Curry entered the tunnel again, under a crowd of fans, with his child-aged son, Cannon, in his arms. Once again, Kel was right behind.

Moments earlier, Thompson was out of the game for the final time with 2:41, and the Warriors secured the victory. Fans took turns chanting his name and begged for more. “Kel! Kel! Kel!,” they shouted. “We want Kale!”

When they returned to the locker room, Cannon had a gift for Kel: a game ball.

“That was a good moment,” Kerr said. “Everyone was obviously thrilled for Kel and thrilled to have him back. But it felt normal. It’s been a long time – two and a half years – but it seemed normal to see him out there and see him with his teammates.”