Klay Thompson on His First Visit to the Philippines: 'My Uncle Andy Told Me I Would Have a Good Time'
A Golden State Warriors star and a Los Angeles Lakers fan walk into a bar...
Klay Thompson was in Manila with fellow Warrior Kevon Looney for the first time, and it was pretty wild, even by their standards. The two NBA superstars were in Manila as guests of Anta Philipines for the finals of Shock the Game, a fresh spin on basketball where four players from each team race to score 21 points in 15 minutes. Thompson was also on hand for the launch of the all-new KT9 sneaker from Anta.
Asia tours tend to be hectic for ball players, and in a country like the Philippines, where basketball is a religion, they're practically considered myths, gods even. Truth be told, I don't really have any fond memories of Thompson, seeing as though he's torched my Lakers for years now. The trauma persists. At the very least, we eliminated them in the second round earlier this year.
But hey, I've always respected the hell out of this man. Thompson is as clutch as they come (he'll always be Game 6 Klay to me, a man who got 60 in less than 15 dribbles in a game). He's one of the greatest shooters of all time, equipped with arguably the prettiest jumper in the league. The lore follows him everywhere, even here, in Manila, a Warriors nation now in many ways.
Dressed in a custom Barong Tagalog, the National Basketball Association (N.B.A.) Star Klay Thompson is his usual cool self for the Esquire Apartment dinner at Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar in Quezon City. Cool enough to sit with me to talk about Barongs, ball, booze, bistek (which he says he vibes with), and a whole lot more.
Discretion: I'm a Lakers fan, okay? But I've always loved your game, man.
Don't worry. I had my Lakers phase myself, with my dad (Mychal played for the Lakeshow from 1986 to 1991) and all.
How's the Barong Tagalog treating you?
It feels wonderful. Looks even better, too.
So what's your first impression of the Philippines so far? I assume you've heard a little bit about us considering that your uncle, Andy, was once an import for Tanduay Rhum Masters.
It's been very fun. I love to see all the Warrior fans. I love to see Thompson jerseys in the crowd. It gives me so much inspiration and makes me feel very welcome. And my Uncle Andy told me I would have a good time just off his experience. He loved the fans and he loved playing in the Philippine Basketball Association (P.B.A.) and he talks about it with so much joy.
In the Philippines, there's this Los Angeles Lakers versus Golden State Warriors fans thing going on. What do you make of this sort of basketball culture war between the two fan bases?
Well, it's just pretty cool to even have a rivalry, to say the least, with the Lakers. They have a very storied franchise and the fact that there are even enough Warrior fans to offset the number of Lakers fans is incredible. It's a testament to our success the last decade and it's just really cool. I hope we continue to bring more fans to our team.
Obviously, the Golden State Warriors have retooled this offseason after being bounced by my Los Angeles Lakers. Your biggest signing, of course, is this familiar face: a guy named Chris Paul. How has the dynamic changed within the team and how do you see him fitting into the Warriors system?
Well, Chris is such an incredible player and he's made every single team he's played for a lot better and he has one goal in mind, that's to win a championship and that's our goal as well. So I know he's going to do wonders for my game.
He's going to make me, get me a lot of easy looks. He's going to unlock a whole new aspect of our team, I think, with his playmaking, especially for Steph and me. We can play off the ball, run around screens and he's just a high-level competitor.
That's why I'm really excited to play with Chris because he is very, very competitive and that's what it takes to be great.
So is the rivalry between the Warriors and CP3 over? Have you guys squashed the beef?
There was no real beef. The only beef comes from on the hardwood and when you battle and the final buzzer sounds, you walk away and you have respect for your opponent, but you leave it on the floor and you, yeah, I guess you keep the beef for next time, too.
You, Steph, Draymond, Kevon, and Iggy. That core has been together for about a solid decade now. The Warriors have revolutionized the game in that span: Small ball, pace and space on steroids, the Death Lineup, ridiculous shot takers, makers, the questionable screens. You guys basically ushered in this new era of basketball.
It's amazing. It's really incredible. It's something I never could have dreamt of as far as being on a team that influences the whole world of basketball. That's insane to think about.
I mean, when I first came on the Warriors, I was just so happy to be there. I had no idea that one day our style of play would be emulated around the world, especially at the youth level to see so many players shooting threes and doing step-backs and rarely posting up as much, but a lot of pace and space.
It's truly amazing and it's an honor for us to see this.
The Warriors seem to be the new-age San Antonio Spurs just because of the continuity of your group. And the rest of the N.B.A has been trying to emulate that for years now. What is it about the Golden State Warriors foundation that sets it apart from the other copycats?
Well, when you are with teammates for over a decade, that's such a special, special thing. Such a rare thing in pro sports, especially to be on one team. It makes me feel so blessed and just incredible that we're still knocking on the door with a chance to win five championships.
The fact that I'm even saying that is outstanding and it makes me want to get in the gym right now and go work on my game because if you win five, you're up there with the Kobes, the Tim Duncans, the Magics.
That's a rare, rare feel to be in and that's the only thing that motivates me at this point in my life, or in basketball at least, is winning to get, not be as good as them, but just be able to be in the history books along those guys.
Where do you think your dynasty stacks up against the greatest dynasties in N.B.A. history?
I think we're not there yet with the Bulls, the Spurs, or the Lakers because with their great runs, or the Celtics, the Bill Russell-led Celtics, Bill Russell run 11, that will never be touched ever again.
Magic and Kareem, Kareem got six, five with the Lake Show, Tim Duncan five, Bulls six, so if we want to be a top-five dynasty ever, we have to win a fifth banner.
It just mathematically makes sense.
Back in 2013, you told reporters that you and Steph had the chance to become one of the greatest backcourts of all time. A decade later, where does the Splash Brothers rank among the greatest backcourt duos ever?
I said that in 2013? 2013, that's big talk, right? Wow. Ten years, man, ten years.
I mean, when I think greatest backboards of all time, I think Gale Goodrich, Jerry West, Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Clyde Frazier, and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Ron Harper. I mean, I think we're up though.
I don't want to claim we're the best because I don't want to.
There are so many greats who came before us, and without their style of play, I would not be the player I am, and Steph wouldn't either. But hopefully when it's all said and done, if we win another ring, we can be considered one of the top three ever. That would be very special.
I guess we're good.
Oh, man, great interview.
During dinner, Thompson loved the bistek, so nice that he ordered a plate twice. "Mabuhay," he says, just as any foreigner would. He tells me it sucks they have to leave early tomorrow, without even visiting one of our gorgeous beaches. Sad. Thompson says he'll be back though, saying that San Francisco's waters can be a little too cold for his liking. Funny, especially for a guy who can get hot from deep, just like that.
I'm definitely looking forward to that next Lakers-Warriors matchup.
The Esquire Apartment Dinner with Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney was made possible in partnership with Anta Philippines. Special thanks to Tissot, Conzace, and Remy Martin.