SportsKlay Thompson Opens Up About Team USA, Snapchat, and That New Guy on the Warriors
Also: What it feels like to catch fire.
After defeating Argentina in the quarterfinals of Olympics men’s basketball in Rio on Wednesday, Klay Thompson took some time on his off day to chat with us. (Shout out to Gillette: "When you’re overseas and on a trip for awhile, it’s tough to stay groomed,” said Klay. “You miss your routine.”) We spoke about the new-look Warriors, the disappointment of the NBA Finals, all the fun he’s having with his teammates in Rio, his addiction to Snapchat, and all those hot shooting streaks he gets on.
GQ: Important question to start, where’s your dog Rocco right now?
Klay Thompson: [laughs] He’s with my little brother Trayce (note: who plays for the Dodgers) in Los Angeles. I miss him. I haven’t seen him in a month, so I’m excited to see him when I get back. But he’s in great hands. Trayce is taking care of him. He’s been sending good snaps with him. I’m having a great time at the Olympics, I’ll cherish this for the rest of my life. I think Rocco will understand that I’m here competing for a gold medal.
Are you tired of answering questions about next season yet?
Yes. Yes. I just want to go out there and prove to people how great we can be. Everyday at the media session here I have to answer questions about it. ‘Oh, how’s the chemistry between you three.’ Everyday… But it’s part of the territory. I just give some automated answers. I can be pretty robotic. There’s a lot of hype surrounding the franchise now, and deservedly so. It’s part of our job, we have to answer those questions.
The way the NBA Finals ended, it was so disappointing for you guys. But then you add Kevin Durant, and there’s this level of excitement about what you guys can do next season. Does one feeling outweigh the other right now?
We added Kevin and I couldn’t be more excited about our future and what could happen, but it’ll take a long time to get over that loss, man. It was hard. Especially being up 3-1, and how good we felt like we were, we controlled our own destiny and we didn’t get it done. But that’s life, it’s basketball, it wasn’t in the cards. It’s going to take a long time to get over that, man. You always think about the one possession that could have changed it. It came down to the last three minutes for us to be back-to-back champions.
Give Cleveland credit: They never gave up, but it’s only going to make us stronger. I’m not going to say [the disappointment] outweighs getting Kevin, because it’s two completely different circumstances. It’s still fresh in my mind to be honest and it will be until we get that opportunity again.
Durant said at his intro presser with the Warriors that he was surprised you texted him because “I didn’t know he had a phone.” Are you not a phone guy?
I don’t try to attach myself to technology so much. I’m on a my phone a lot though, but in the offseason I try to get away from it as much as I can. Some people have claimed that I’m hard to get a hold of, so I think Kevin was just playing off that. I kind of took pride in it, like, nice, I’m still mysterious to this guy. I thought it was pretty funny.
Do you have Pokémon Go on your phone?
I never tried Pokémon Go. I figured I’d get too addicted to it. I did play Pokémon Snap on Nintendo 64, so that window is closed for me.
Is there an app you wish you spent less time on?
Probably Snapchat. I just find myself on there way too much looking at everybody’s selfies and videos of their entire day and I’m like “What am I doing?” But the cool thing about Snapchat is you can get a lot of news on there now. There’s CNN, ESPN, and I find myself reading the most random articles. I don’t know how it actually benefits me but it’s interesting. I like to stay up on current events, so I have to give kudos to Snapchat, they’ve done a good job of that. But I’m on there way too much.
Team USA’s been having fun in Rio on off days. I saw you and Jimmy Butler playing football. Who’s better?
I’m more versatile for sure. I can play quarterback and receiver. Jimmy can hold his own. But I’m going to go with myself. I played football from fourth grade to when I was 15, but then I found out hoops was my calling card so I did that.
The basketball team had some fun playing beach volleyball too. Who are the top three NBA players you would pick for a beach volleyball team.
DeAndre [Jordan] would be one of them. He’s good at spiking, that’s about it though. Chase Budinger. He’s amazing. He played volleyball growing up. We went to high school close to each other. He’s a beast. And probably J.J. Barea because he’s low to the ground, he’s scrappy, and he’d be the small guy on the team who can dig all those balls out by getting low.
There are so many competitive guys on the team, are there other fun competitions that happen?
We play some dominoes and video games, mostly 2K or FIFA, but that’s about it. We’re staying on this boat so we don’t really go anywhere.
Most competitive guy on the team?
Jimmy or Draymond [Green]. Those guys always think they’re right. In their minds they never lose.
Draymond has been roasting everyone on social media, you have a response to him calling your Olympic ID photo a “super weak pic?”
I don’t. That was the picture they gave me and I’m going to live with it.
Favorite sport you’ve had a chance to watch at the Olympics?
Track and field. I got to see Wayde Van Niekerk set the record for the 400M and saw a great race with Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the 100M. That was probably my favorite.
Any athletes you’ve had the pleasure of meeting?
I got to meet Justin Rose. I’m a big golf fan, so it was cool seeing him. I met Andy Murray in 2014, and we saw each other again here in Rio. He’s had some great success since then so we reflected on that.
How would you compare winning a gold medal to winning the NBA title?
I haven’t won a gold medal yet but I can imagine it being pretty equal. You’re representing an entire country, and the expectations are high. USA Basketball has established such a great precedence too. It’s hard to say, it’s comparing apples and oranges. They’re both tough. The world’s gotten a lot better. Shoot, I can’t pick one. I’ll have a better idea on Sunday hopefully after we get the job done.
I want to ask about your hot streaks too. The 37-point quarter against Sacramento, your 11 three-pointers against Oklahoma City in Game 6 at Oklahoma City, and even your 30 points against France a few days ago. When do you realize you’re on a streak?
It’s hard to pinpoint the number of shots it takes, but it could be the second or third shot. It takes a few makes, and then I take a heat check and if that goes in I’m feeling even better. Even at these Olympics I haven’t shot to my standards but it only takes a couple shots to get going, and we’re 6-0 so that’s all that matters. It’s a great feeling getting into that zone. It’s something you try to replicate every game, but there’s a reason why I can’t do it that much because it’s incredibly hard. I try to make it consistent but it’s tough. It only happens every few games but when it happens, I try to think about what I did during the day and what I did pregame to help me get to where I was in the game.
The 37-point quarter against the Kings had to be the hottest you ever felt right?
Easily. I won’t say I’ll never do that again but 37 points in like nine and a half minutes, going 13-for-13. It’s hard to go 13-for-13 in practice let alone in a game. I had never made 13 shots in a row in a game.
In bar conversations, I’ve nominated you to my friends as the sleeper pick to break Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points record just because of how easily you can get your shot off and the craziness of your streaks.
I can’t agree with you, man. 100 points? I had, what, 52 points in that game against Sacramento. I have to double that production? Holy crap.
Listen, if you get one of those streaks like the one against Sacramento, and you carry it over for two quarters, that’s already almost 80 points.
Shit, that’s not impossible, but I might have a better shot at winning the Powerball.
I’m upset you rejected my theory.
I know, man. I appreciate the praise, but man, that’s freaking hard.
This interview has been edited and condensed.