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Klay Thompson Left It All In Oakland

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 16: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings during the 2024 Play-In Tournament on April 16, 2024 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The farther you get from Oakland, the more you understand why Klay Thompson is now a Maverick. Not San Francisco, mind you: San Francisco never really saw the Thompson who was the second chair in the Golden State Warrior Orchestra Of Badass. The Warrior dynasty was built in Oakland, and when the team left for San Francisco in 2019 they left his best years behind, along with chunks of his legs. He missed two full seasons and more than half of a third, and what he lost could never be regained or even recreated. 

He was the Warrior for life who came to realize that for all but the rare few the "for life" part eventually plays only as a snarky joke, and as his shadow faded his desire to end his career as he began it faded as well. He was no longer the goofily adept sailor or the devoted dog owner or the free spirit's free spirit whose every day seemed better than the one before. And when he finally realized that everything was more of a job than it had been, he decided he needed a new home where the memories weren't so bittersweet and he could matter as he once did—where a title was more a real possibility than a tale told at bedtime. All it cost in the end was that most business of solutions: two draft picks, nameless pieces in 2025 and 2031 that can always be used as bait for someone else. The mutual love affair between Thompson and his mates and bosses in the flush times had faded as his knee ligaments and Achilles tendons took their sweet time recovering from successive catastrophes, and the glory days are now an unfathomable five years in the past.

That is why Thompson's departure from the Warriors seems more formulaic the farther you get from 66th Avenue. The Warriors he helped electrify and the game he helped change have both since changed again, and if you think he will look funny in Mavs gear, then you are a helpless romantic who believes that basketball is a thing of grace and beauty and not a matter of strickly bidness (41 players, 111 contract years, $2,086,516,475 on Monday alone).

Thompson was one of those players, three of those years, and $50 million of those dollars, a weird way to end the magical beginning of his career, the adjunct to Stephen Curry who could not only take the toughest defensive assignment but make offense out of the minimum number of dribbles.

His partnership with Curry did not suffer even when Kevin Durant joined in 2017, and his work in the 2022 playoffs gave hope to dewy-eyed believers that he really could come back from what might normally be two career-ending injuries.

But the injuries took his age-29 and age-30 seasons, prime cuts that made his comeback a constant negotiation with the athlete reaper, and if he was the last one to think he was in his twilight years, Curry and Steve Kerr did not see it much sooner. They wanted to believe in magic that Thompson's legs kept telling everyone couldn't be conjured.

Eventually though, the truth would out itself, and whatever it is that Dallas sees in Thompson's next (and maybe last) three years, at least it won't be against the backdrop of the Bay, where the reality was even better than the possibilities and he never got old or infirm or, in the end, pragmatic by necessity. Like nearly every other player, he found out that the game's romance always loses in the final to reality. But he'll always have Oakland.

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