Before he was on the Golden State Warriors playing against Kobe Bryant, Klay Thompson was a young fan who stalked out the Los Angeles Lakers star just to get a chance at a brief greeting.
Thompson is joining a number of other NBA stars in sharing their memories of Bryant ahead of his induction into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. The Warriors sharpshooter recalled a childhood spent around the Lakers organization and what it meant for him just to be within the same orbit as Bryant.
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Thompson Waited on Kobe
When he was growing up, Klay Thompson had some close connections to the Lakers organization, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times noted. His father, Mychal, had won a title with Los Angeles and worked in their radio broadcast booth. That allowed Klay to hang around the arena — specifically the underground parking lot where he knew Bryant would eventually land.
“My favorite part of the night was going down to the tarmac to see him leave, just so I could say, ‘Hey,’ to him and see what he was driving, what he was wearing, how he’s walking,” Thompson said. “Those were just such fond memories for me, being in the Staples Center parking lot. Him just knowing my name was enough for me to tell people he was my ‘good friend.’ ”
Thompson would go on to become a rival of Bryant, with the Warriors ascending at the same time that Bryant and the Lakers were on the downswing. Thompson recalled having the same reverence for Bryant on the court that he did in his childhood while waiting in the parking lot.
Thompson recalled the first time he ever faced Bryant at the Staples Center, a game where Bryant dropped 39 points — many of them, Woike noted, with Thompson trying to guard him.
“I’ll never forget that stat line: I went 6-for-8, 14 points, with just the hope that he noticed that I was a good player,” Thompson said.
Other Warriors Praise Kobe
Thompson is not the only member of the Warriors organization recalling the impact that Bryant had on the league and other players. Golden State head coach Steve Kerr also shared his memories of the Lakers legend, saying Bryant’s game reminded him of a famous former teammate.
“I think Kobe was the most similar player to Michael Jordan that I’ve ever seen,” Kerr said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “They shared so many of the same qualities, the competitive desire, the dominance, the emotional dominance of the game. It was no coincidence, he really patterned his game after Michael.”
There will be more honors for Bryant this weekend. As ESPN noted, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is unveiling a special exhibit honoring him. John Doleva, the Hall of Fame’s president and CEO, said it will be a fitting tribute to the late Lakers star.
“The family had time to think about what they wanted to do,” Doleva said during Friday’s news conference for each of the 2020 inductees. “[It’s] about Kobe’s accomplishments but also about what Kobe was after he left the Lakers, after he left basketball.”