The 30th annual ESPY Awards took place on Wednesday, honoring the best of the best in sports for 2022. It was a big night for the Golden State Warriors, too, and not just because Stephen Curry served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Steph and his crew also made off with four trophies for their incredible efforts during the Dubs’ 2021-22 championship campaign. For his part, Curry was recognized as Best NBA Player, and also for having the Best Record-Breaking Performance (for topping Ray Allen’s career mark for three-point makes).
Golden State was also recognized as the Best Team.
However, the most emotional win of the night for Dub Nation undoubtedly came when Klay Thompson was announced as the Best Comeback Athlete. It was an honor two and a half years in the making and the five-time All-Star was humble in receiving it.
During his acceptance speech, he also made a point to shout out the late, great Kobe Bryant and his family, which drew a heartfelt response Bryant’s widow, Vanessa.
Thompson & Bryant Exchange Strong Messages
As he stood on stage with his trophy, Thompson spoke about his fledgling days as the son of former Lakers player and commentator Mychal Thompson. The baller noted that his proximity to the organization afforded him a front-row seat to watch Kobe’s ascension.
“The best memories I have growing up here in Southern California are going to [Staples Center] with my father. I had a privileged life,” Thompson said. “He was a commentator for the Lakers, and I would go to every game early just to watch Kobe do his thing.”
Thompson went on to acknowledge Bryant’s kin, and further revealed that he regularly read the legend’s book as he worked to return from both a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“Lastly, I would like to thank the Bryant family because — I don’t know if Vanessa’s out there watching — but to Vanessa and her three beautiful girls, we think of Kobe and Gigi every day. I read ‘Mamba Mentality’ every day during rehab.”
Shortly thereafter, Vanessa Bryant posted a clip of Thompson’s speech to Instagram along with a message for the Warriors sharpshooter.
“Klay Thompson, you’re a class act,” read the post’s caption. “Thank you for your support and love for Kobe, my Gigi and our family. Thank you for always including my Gigi when you think of Kob. Congratulations. #MambaMentality #espys”
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Klay & Kobe Exchanged Gems
Thompson didn’t just learn from Kobe by watching him as a youngster or reading his book; the two also went head to head on the hardwood. In total, LA and Golden State squared off 12 different times during regular-season play with both ballers in the lineup. However, the high-water mark for their matchup may have come during a two-game stretch in 2014.
On November 1, a young Thompson had one of the best games of his early pro career against Kobe and the Lakers. In 34 minutes of play that night, the Warriors star dropped 41 points on 14-of-18 shooting to lead the Dubs to a blowout win over the Lake Show.
However, Bryant wasted little time returning the favor.
A little over two weeks later, on November 16, the two teams squared off once again and this time it was Bryant who lit up the scoreboard. The Lakers lost that game as well, but Kobe scored 44 points in 31 minutes of action in the rematch.