Klay Thompson

Klay recalls one-word Kobe encounter that hinted at NBA potential

NBC Universal, Inc.

Klay Thompson continues to mold his game after the late great Kobe Bryant, and the Warriors star knew he was on the right track early in his NBA career after a special encounter with his idol.

While appearing on a recent "Podcast P with Paul George" episode, Thompson reflected back on one of his favorite memories with Bryant that, without saying much, told him everything he needed to know about his potential.

"He didn't even have to tell me. One time, for the NBA Global Games in 2013, I knew I was on the right path," Thompson recalled. "I couldn't sleep, that jet lag is crazy, so I go up to the weight room and I'm on the dumbbell bench and someone just taps me on the shoulder, I look up and I'm like, 'Oh, damn!' It was Kobe, hood on, shades on. And I was like, 'I can't believe I'm in the same gym as this man.' And he just goes, 'Sup.' Shakes my hand, goes to the other side of the gym, starts doing his workout.

"And then to hear him tell that same story in 2016 on his retirement tour like, 'Yeah I knew Klay would be good when I saw him in the weight room and he was the only other guy there. That's the stuff that impresses me.' So when I heard that, that's all I needed to hear and I was like, I know if I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm going to fulfill my potential.

"That was my favorite memory with Kobe. One word. All he said was, 'Sup.' But just to know that I was on that Mamba Mentality in the same hours with him, I was like, 'This is really a dream come true.' "

Thompson has looked up to Bryant for nearly his entire life and got the rare opportunity to admire him in person when his dad Mychal played for the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise which Bryant played his decorated 20-year Hall of Fame career for.

And since Thompson entered the league in 2011 after being drafted by the Warriors, he's been very open about his idolization of Bryant. And even though Thompson has many memories with Bryant as a young kid, there was nothing like facing his role model for the first time on the hardwood.

"Definitely the first time I played against him," Thompson said in response to what his favorite memory with Bryant was on the court. "There's not many dudes in the league, when you're a rookie, who will make you starstruck. That was one of them. I was just like, 'I can't believe I'm lining up against you, bro. I've watched your whole career. When you won the Slam Dunk Contest, when you went for 80 [points], I've seen you win five [championships] and now I'm guarding you.'

"You go so much harder when you guard guys like that. I was trying to not let him get a good shot off. That was such a beautiful moment. I had a good game, too. I was 6-for-8, 14 points. When you're a rookie, that's like scoring 35. So I was like, 'Nice, I hope Kobe noticed me.' That was a really good memory for me."

Thompson, entering his 13th season with the Warriors, hopes to carry over that Mamba Mentality into the 2023-24 season as he and Golden State aims to climb back into championship contention.

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