Klay and Mychal Thompson are seventh such duo to play in Finals
POSTED: Jun 3, 2015 10:08 AM ET
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OAKLAND — Playing in The Finals is an incredible experience. Watching your son do the same is something else.
Mychal Thompson is about to find out the difference. The former No. 1 pick, who played in four Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and is now their radio color commentator, will watch son Klay play for a championship with the Golden State Warriors.
The Thompsons will be the seventh father-son combination in NBA history to have both played in The Finals. If the Warriors beat the Cavs, Mychal and Klay will be just the fourth father-son combination to have both won an NBA championship. The others: Rick Barry (1975 Warriors) and Brent Barry (2005 and 2007 Spurs), Matt Guokas (1947 Warriors) and Matt Guokas, Jr. (1967 Sixers), and Bill Walton (1977 Blazers and 1986 Celtics) and Luke Walton (2009 and 2010 Lakers).
The elder Thompson won two titles in his four trips. His Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in 1987 and Detroit Pistons in '88, then lost to the Pistons in '89 and to the Bulls in '91. He backed up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the first three trips and only played in one Finals game in '91, but he averaged 11.2 points in The Finals for the '87 champs.
The difference between winning and losing is huge. Asked about what sticks in his mind about his Finals experience, Mychal is clear.
"How good it feels to win and how a thousand times worse it feels to lose," Mychal said. "It's an amazing swing in emotions there. Everybody loves to win, but the losing just haunts you forever."
Watching his son play is similarly intense.
"Whether it's in person or on TV, I'm going through a range of emotions, up and down, stomach churning, head pounding," Mychal said. "It's very intense and very rewarding at the same time."
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Klay is just one of Mychal's three talented sons. The eldest, Mychel, had a cup of coffee with the Cavs in 2012 and won the D-League championship with the Santa Cruz Warriors in April. The youngest, Trayce, plays outfield for the Charlotte Knights, the triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Mychal says that Klay's competitiveness is what makes him special.
"He's a workaholic, a gym rat. He loves to play, loves to work out, loves to compete."
Mychal was the same way, and was also part of a trio of talented brothers. His older brother Colin played in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, while younger brother Andy played basketball overseas.
"They both have the same competitive way about them," Andy, now a producer for NBA Entertainment, said about his brother and nephew. "But you would never know it, because Mychal talks all the time. Klay never talks."
Another difference: While Mychal didn't start playing basketball until he was 16, he saw potential in his son at a much younger age.
"I saw how well he could shoot, how well he could handle the ball in youth basketball," Mychal said. "And I said if he continues to develop and keep a passion for the game, he's got a chance to go very far in this game."
Klay suffered a concussion in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, but has been cleared to play in Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC) after passing the league's concussion protocols. He has missed just six games in his four-year career, showing steady improvement each season.
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Mychal says that he has seen his son's confidence build over the last four years, and that has manifested itself in an expanded offensive repertoire. Klay doesn't just want to be the shooter in the corner who plays off of his teammates.
"He knows he belongs," Mychal said. "He's added different things to his game every year, rebounding more, driving more to the hoop, getting to the foul line more. He continues to expand his game."
The Warriors had seen enough last summer that they weren't willing to break up the Splash Brothers to get Kevin Love from Minnesota. Mychal obviously believed in his son as much as his team did, and also believed in the team itself.
"I made a prediction in October that the Warriors should win the championship this year," Mychal said. "When you saw the roster that Joe Lacob and Bob Myers and Jerry West and Kirk Lacob put together, given good health, I said the Warriors should win the championship. So we'll see in the next 4-7 games if my prediction will come true."
In the same way that keeping Klay could be a huge part of a championship for the Warriors, trading for Mychal was a big key for the '87 Lakers, who got him in a midseason deal from San Antonio. After L.A. beat the Celtics in The Finals, Sports Illustrated writer David Halberstam said that Thompson was "the most important pickup by either team this year," adding that Thompson "was strong enough to play center yet was fast enough to play small forward at times."
Klay is an entirely different player than his dad was, but is a key ingredient for a team that is just as (and maybe more) versatile and potent as those Lakers. He has sought out his dad's advice about how to handle the intensity of the next two weeks, but Mychal doesn't want to overstep his bounds.
"I give him his space and let him seek me out," the father said. "I don't want to inundate him with stuff, because he has the coaching staff that he can depend on, guys with decades of experience. He can talk to Steve Kerr, who has five rings, three more than me. If he wants to know anything about what it takes to be a champion, he can talk to his head coach."
After another 4-7 games, Klay might know what it takes as well. But before the stomach churning and head pounding begin, Dad is proud to be a part of a 14-man fraternity of fathers and sons who have played for an NBA championship.
"That," Mychal said, "is pretty special."
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