OAKLAND — Despite Klay Thompson’s extensive travels to China, the Warriors guard knows just four phrases in Mandarin. And the only one he was willing to show off Wednesday was Nǐ hǎo piàoliang — which means “You are beautiful.”
Thompson might also want to learn the phrase for “viral video sensation.” After all, his off-season journey set the internet aflame.
By the time he was done with his (attempted) dunking, (attempted) dancing and losing arm wrestling matches, the hashtag #ChinaKlay was trending on Twitter.
And it was absolutely piàoliang.
“I actually didn’t realize how viral I was going while I was over there,” Thompson said Wednesday after a goodwill visit to an Oakland school.
“I didn’t have the internet, so I was kind of out of touch. Then I get home and everyone was like, ‘Man, it looks like you had the best time over there in China.’ I was like, yeah, I did have a good time.’”
Most famously, Thompson tried to show the people of China what it looks like when an NBA All-Star dunks. So the 6-foot-7 guard took a running start down the free-throw lane, leaped into a 360-degree spin — and bonked the ball off the rim.
Thompson’s slam hit the underside of the hoop so hard the rim blocked his shot like an invisible Dikembe Mutombo. He tumbled awkwardly to the ground, and into internet infamy.
“I’m forever a shooter,” Thompson said with an air of surrender Wednesday.
“It was a long flight. The rim seemed … well … might’ve been 10-foot-5. You never know,” he deadpanned.
Thompson was back on familiar footing Wednesday. He was #OaklandKlay again. He spent the morning speaking to an assembly of several hundred young students at the Kipp Bridge Academy.
Klay Thompson went to China to show them what the talents of an NBA player look like in real life pic.twitter.com/DdxZFJ5ZUv
— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) June 24, 2017
Since joining the Warriors in 2011, the sharpshooter’s contributions to the school include a $25,000 donation through the Warriors Community Foundation.
On Wednesday, he combined with the Good Tidings Foundation to celebrate the school’s refurbished basketball facility (now “Klay Thompson Court”). He also donated his signature Anta shoes and other athletic gear.
This is a connection he plans to continue even after the Warriors move to San Francisco for the 2019-20 season.
“Absolutely,” Thompson said. “I’m an Oakland resident. This is where I bought my first home. I love this city. … I want to be involved with the community because they gave us so much. The people have been amazing. I’m really going to miss it.”
Thompson had so much fun shooting around with the elementary school kids Wednesday that he was reluctant to discuss the NBA. But he picked an impossible day to avoid the topic. A day earlier, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round draft pick.
“I’m excited to see that opening game when they play each other,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of crazy.”
— Daniel Brown (@mercbrownie) August 23, 2017
Also kind of crazy: The Splash Brother himself was twice rumored by ESPN to be part of trade talks. The first time, he would have been headed to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George. The second time, it was part of an Irving deal. In both cases, ESPN reported, Warriors General Manager Bob Myers told them no dice.
Way back when, there were also rumors that Thompson would be swapped for Kevin Love. (The departed Jerry West helped squash that one.)
Thompson said he’s flattered by the interest but noted he’s already in a long-term relationship.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “It shows the Warriors believe in me and these other teams want me to be a part of their success. So I appreciate it. I’ve been in trade rumors forever. Everyone has. Except for maybe LeBron James, Steph (Curry) — well, even Steph early in his career. It’s part of the business. It is flattering and I do appreciate it.”
Thompson’s performance on the court, like his Twitter persona, is trending up. His scoring average has risen in each of his six seasons. The last NBA player to improve for six straight seasons after scoring double digits as a rookie was Moses Malone.
In Thompson’s case, it’s gone from 12.5 to 16.6 to 18.4 to 21.7 to 22.1 to 22.3.
Now, he has two years left on his contract. With the trade rumors done, he understands the next speculation will be about an extension.
“Yeah. When the time comes,” Thompson said. “I’m not really too worried about the numbers right now. We have such a good thing going. I just don’t want to leave yet. It’s rare in the NBA to have a team that can win with the culture we created. It’s hard to put a price on it.”
That said, Thompson did say he’s going to start searching for a new endorsement deal. Not for himself, but for his English bulldog.
Thompson loves Rocco so much that he keeps in touch even when he’s traveling abroad. “I’ve FaceTimed my dog before,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of it. I’m on the road a long time, so I miss him at points in my life.”
But since Thompson is working his tail off, he figures Rocco ought to as well.
“I need to get Rocco some commercials, man, before he gets old,” he said. “He needs to hold his weight around here. He’s been living off me for free.”
— Daniel Brown (@mercbrownie) August 23, 2017
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