Lowell Cohn: Warriors' Klay Thompson the strong, silent type
OAKLAND — I am fascinated by Klay Thompson.
Fascinated because he’s a top-10 player in the NBA, one of the Warriors’ three top-10 players. You know the other two. But I’m more fascinated by something else.
By what I don’t know about him. The total tonnage of what I don’t know is mind-blowing. I know Draymond Green. How could anyone not know Green? And I know Stephen Curry because he’s all over the place.
But Thompson is quiet. Almost say nonverbal. He is the strong silent type. American heroes in movies and books — often cowboy stories — are the strong silent type. Nonverbal. Let their actions speak for themselves. Don’t brag. Or explain. Or apologize.
The gunslinger — an American archetype — lets his six-shooter do his talking, does what a man has to do. That’s the code. Thompson lets his jumper do his talking. The gunslinger and the jump shooter both take their shots.
Thompson, whom I don’t understand, is the exact opposite of Green, whom I do understand. I am not saying one is a better person than the other. I am saying they are contrasting personalities. Green outspoken with that big personality, celebrating after drilling a 3. Thompson jogging down the court after nailing a 3, his head down. “Don’t focus on me. Just doing my job.” Almost erasing himself.
Who is he?
I asked on Friday after the Warriors practice. Asked Thompson about Thompson and asked others about Thompson. Started by asking Steve Kerr. A reasonable person always starts with Kerr.
“They are total opposites,” Kerr said, thinking this one over. “Draymond is always talking, and Klay rarely speaks. Klay just wants to go about his business, does everything sort of below the radar. The one area where they’re similar is they’re both near the top of the league when you talk about the best two-way players. It’s kind of fun as a coach to have such different personalities, different talents.”
“When Klay makes a dramatic shot, he doesn’t celebrate as far as I can tell,” I said. “He walks down the court. Obviously, you’re not inside him, but you may have talked to him about it. Is he jubilant inside or just business as usual?”
“I think he’s jubilant inside,” Kerr said. “Every once in a while, you see Klay when he gets really hot and makes five in a row. He’ll gesture to the crowd to stand up. I think he has a lot of fun. He just doesn’t show it that often.”
“Is he quiet around the team?” I asked.
“Yes, very quiet. He’s actually opened up. When I took the job, everybody told me he hardly ever said anything. He’s got a really dry sense of humor and he kind of picks his spots to show it. He hides a lot of things, I think, but he’s a great person and fun to be around.”
Let’s move on to Thompson himself, seated in one of the big chairs at the edge of the gym, answering in short sentences. A declarative speaker. I said he and Green have contrasting personalities. Thompson said, “Aha.” Seeing where this was going. I said, after a big shot, he goes down the court silently, doesn’t celebrate. Is he feeling joy inside?
“My whole life I’ve been like that no matter the sport,” he said. “Never showed a great deal of emotion. I have my times when I do, but I’ve always been a stoic competitor. I never really was out there the most vocal guy. I lead by example, not really taking plays off. It might not look like it, but I’m also having fun. I got that cool and collected temperament. I’ve had it since I was a kid.”