Klay Thompson reflects on three-year anniversary of NBA Finals ACL tear:

Klay’s heart remains the same three years after nightmare injury originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea:

SAN FRANCISCO – Klay Thompson’s first move after landing, his left leg awkwardly bearing the brunt of weight, is to grab his knee. He then rolls over, supine to prone, sliding along the floor, trying to keep his agony from reaching his face.

Even as he is helped off the court by two Warriors teammates, Thompson does not know he has torn his ACL. Or that it would be 31 months before he’d return to the NBA.

He is consumed with three facts: This is Game 6 of the NBA Finals, he has 28 points and he is owed two free throws after being fouled on the play.

“I just thought, ‘I do not want to leave these points on the board, man,'” Thompson says now. “‘This is the Finals. I’m going to go get this 30-ball. ‘”

Now aware he has a serious knee injury, Thompson limps out of the locker room and onto the court, turning the nervous silence inside Oracle Arena into hopeful cheers. He goes to the line, bounces a bit and drains both free throws. He has 30 points.

He wants more. So, he jogs up the court to play defense with his teammates – until coach Steve Kerr, knowing the diagnosis, calls timeout and summons a replacement to keep Thompson from trying to play on a torn ACL.

Three years later – Monday is the three-year anniversary of the injury – Thompson is healthy but never far from a night he’ll never forget. The Warriors trying to pull into a 3-3 tie in the Finals. Two free throws giving him an even 30 and his team a five-point lead.

Klay was determined to stay on the floor because, well, he is conditioned to answer the call of high-level competition.

“I’d never had such a severe injury, so I did not think it was that serious,” Thompson recalls now. “I thought I might have sprained something in my knee. But you know, when you’re in the championship and you’re playing in front of our fans, your adrenaline is so high that you kind of disregard anything that makes sense. And running around on a torn ACL does not make very good sense. ”

It’s Sunday afternoon, one day before the anniversary Klay wishes did not exist. He is speaking roughly 29 hours before the joins the Warriors on the court to face the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center.

His streak of consecutive seasons, when healthy, in the Finals is now at six.

“Seems routine, but I just know how special this is,” he says. “I’m trying to just be present in everything I do during this time, even this interview, and not look ahead. Not even looking ahead to tomorrow, but just enjoy this day before the big one tomorrow.

“NBA Finals is such a cool thing to be a part of. I remember being in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2013 doing some stuff with the NBA and waking up early to watch it, three o’clock or four o’clock in the morning. To realize that these games are broadcast worldwide, it just reminds you how special it really is. ”

Thompson has a different perspective in 2022 than he had in 2019. That’s to be expected in the wake of 941 days devoted to two significant surgeries –– the torn ACL in June 2019 was followed by a ruptured Achilles in November 2020 – multiple rehabilitation processes and the unavoidable mental / emotional challenges:

“When I hurt my knee, it was kind of unchartered territory for me because I had been able to be consistently present in the lineup my whole career,” he says. “So, I had to kind of realign my whole train of thought with the months coming up. I knew I had a lot of training ahead, and it was actually hard because I did not really get a break …

“Now to be here again, I wouldn’t change anything. “I’m very grateful and everything I did to that point led to this, so I would not change a thing.”

Thompson not only is active in the Finals, but he’s leading Golden State in minutes played this postseason with 711, 24 more than Stephen Curry and 30 more than Andrew Wiggins. Thompson has had good and great games during the playoffs but continues to seek a signature scoring game against the Celtics.

The Warriors would welcome it in the process of winning Monday night.

“Hopefully we can get this job done,” Curry says, “and pay homage to that three-year journey actually leading to something truly special.”

RELATED: Kerr defends Draymond’s ‘brilliant’ Game 4 performance:

As for Thompson, he’ll take another 30-ball. But after all he has endured, that’s not at top of his priority list. The memories of June 2019 linger, but now that he and the Warriors are two victories from a championship, his objective is clear.

“Maybe for a second,” he says when asked if he’ll reflect on the anniversary. “But when I step on that court, I want to win by any means necessary. I do not care how ugly or pretty it is. Let’s just win and protect our home court.

“I’m not going to sing Kumbaya or anything. I just want to frigging win. ”

The man has changed. His heart remains the same.

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