Klay Thompson

Why Klay likely wouldn't have left Dubs if ACL injury never happened

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The trajectory of Klay Thompson's NBA career was forever altered during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Toronto Raptors, when the beloved Splash Bro suffered the first of two consecutive lower leg injuries that kept him off the court for 941 days.

When Thompson went down with a torn left ACL, Golden State went on to lose that game, the series and the team's chance at a three-peat. The Warriors rewarded Thompson with the max contract available in free agency that summer, inking the five-time NBA All-Star to a five-year, $190 million deal.

Now, as Thompson approaches free agency after the 2023-24 NBA season, he doesn't think much would have changed about that summer even if he hadn't been injured.

"That's a big what-if. Wow," Thompson told Warriors teammate Draymond Green on "The Draymond Green Show" podcast released Monday. Green asked Thompson if he would have approached the free-agency process any differently had he been at full strength.

"That could have been a definite possibility just because you're healthy," Thompson continued. "But at the same time, too, if I don't get hurt and let's say we do three-peat, it's like, you're not walking away from that. That hasn't been done since Shaq and Kobe, so I never would have walked away from a chance at stacking rings."

Thompson reflected on all the work it took for the Warriors to reach their fifth consecutive Finals appearance with a chance to win three rings in a row, all for it to end in agony -- not only for himself, literally, but for a Golden State team that fought so hard to get there.

But even if things had been different, Thompson believes he still would be a Warrior today.

"You tear a ligament, and then you've got to go right back to the gym," Thompson told Green. "There was no vacation. I was very grateful for my family during that time because I was just kind of lost without basketball ... That was not fun, and especially after that five-year Finals run we had -- a lot of mental and physical wear and tear.

"When I really think about it, if I was healthy, I don't think I would have really tested [free agency] that hard just because it's hard to walk away from a dynasty. That doesn't happen too often."

Now, with Thompson playing out the final year of that 2019 contract without an extension in place, it remains to be seen if he'll be back with the Warriors next season.

But with his recent play showing why he earned that last contract in the first place, and a Golden State team guaranteed at least a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament, there's no telling what kind of deal could be worked out this summer -- championship or not.

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