OAKLAND, Calif. – After experiencing an emotionally draining day that included visiting with his gravely ill grandfather in Portland, traveling well over 1,000 miles and shelling out five-figures for a private jet back to Oakland, Klay Thompson found himself in front of his locker room stall, scrolling down his phone, preparing to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in an hour.
The Golden State Warriors knew there was a chance Thompson might play but still considered him questionable until he made it known that he was mentally and physically able to perform. They got a good hint when he arrived roughly 90 minutes before the game and did his usual pregame workout. Teammate Zaza Pachulia spotted Thompson in his seat, in his game shorts, and was shocked and excited.
“He’s alive,” Pachulia shouted.
“Barely,” Thompson replied, before lowering his head and sighing, noticeably dejected.
Thompson received word that his grandfather was gravely ill and decided to head back home Wednesday for what could be his final visit, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Scrambling unsuccessfully to find a charter flight, Thompson settled on catching a commercial ticket on Southwest Airlines. Thompson informed the Warriors of his situation and general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr both encouraged him to take as much time as needed.
Upon his arrival in Portland, Thompson’s mother drove him directly to the hospital, where Thompson intended to at least spend the day, before his grandfather told him to go back to work, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Thompson wasn’t comfortable leaving behind his family, but obeyed his grandfather’s orders.
Ignoring the expensive price tag, Thompson booked a charter flight back to Oakland, and reached out to the Warriors to let them know there was a chance he might be available to face the Thunder. And after landing at the Oakland airport around 5:45 p.m., a car service took him to nearby Oracle Arena.
Thompson is addicted to basketball and takes pride in always suiting up – he’s played in 426 of a possible 435 games in his career. Kerr sat him out of a Jan. 10 win against Miami for rest. He missed the first game of his career in the 2013-14 season to attend the funeral of his paternal grandfather, DeWitt Thompson. Thompson was only able to visit his paternal grandfather in the Bahamas once a year, so he was especially close to his maternal grandfather growing up in Portland, according to sources. But when he was told to get back to work, Thompson decided to do what he always does. He played.
“The guy is full of surprises,” Pachulia said with a shrug as he walked away. “He scores 60 in under 30 minutes … ”
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