It has been more than two years since we have seen Klay Thompson on the basketball court as the Warriors guard suffered a torn Achilles while recovering from the ACL tear he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Many believe that had Thompson been healthy, he and the rest of the original "Strength in Numbers" Golden State Warriors would be sitting on four rings right now. Injuries are part of the game, and the prospect of the Dubs winning with Klay healthy is purely hypothetical; however, the vote of confidence should serve as a reminder of how good Klay is, especially when the game is on the line.
The committee that voted on the NBA's Top 75 list seemed to forget how good of a player Klay is. To Thompson's surprise, he was not on the list, a snub that is just as significant as Dwight Howard not being recognized as one of the 75 greatest NBA players ever. Klay was unhappy, but instead of consoling their teammate, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry decided to make light of the moment instead by gifting. Draymond and Steph gave Klay a jersey number 77 to remind him of the fact that he just missed out on the league's illustrious list.
"77th greatest player of all time!"
Thompson should definitely be on the list, but as people always say with regards to these lists, "in order to add someone, you need to take someone out." In the case of the Klay snub, it's relatively simple, add Klay and remove James Harden, and here's why.
The list isn't simply about a player's accomplishments, and if anything, team success seems to triumph over individual accolades in the NBA's top 75 players of all time. Disagree? Well, there is no way Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen's individual accomplishments are the main reasons they are on the list; it's all drawn from their pivotal roles in the Bulls and Pistons championship teams of the past. The Warriors would never be able to play the championship-level team basketball they did without Klay. He was their best perimeter defender and is every bit of sound as a shooter as Stephen Curry off the catch. Klay's skillset on both ends of the floor is what made the Warriors elite.
Damian Lillard is also on the list, likely due to his playoff heroics and fierce loyalty to his franchise. Perhaps Klay does not have the buzzer-beater highlights that Dame has, but "Game 6 Klay" is as frightening as it gets when it comes to star performances. Klay also had the opportunity to pursue a role as the first option on a different team, but his desire to win and loyalty to Golden State led to Thompson signing an extension in 2019.
As for Harden, one can say that he is one of the greatest offensive players this game has ever seen. James is not only one of the best scorers, but recent years have seen Harden showcase his talents as a playmaker, leading the league in assists in a season en route to winning league MVP. Unfortunately for him, the buck stops there, as James has had little playoff success as a superstar since leaving OKC. Harden has failed to reach the NBA Finals since his 2012 run with the Thunder despite being a star on a number 1 or 2 seed several times since he was traded.
Harden is a highly talented player, but winning matters, and James hasn't done much of that in his career when we speak of greatness. He has been called upon several times to deliver for his team in the playoffs, and he has come up short each time. This is by no means an indictment on Harden because, with Brooklyn, he has the opportunity to achieve much greatness alongside KD and Kyrie, but he is not greater than Klay Thompson at the moment.
Klay is reportedly back to practicing with the Warriors and is preparing for a return around Christmas Day. Thompson was reportedly seen wearing jersey number 77 at practice as a reminder of being snubbed from the prestigious list. Klay is one hell of a competitor, and with the way the Warriors are playing now, getting back a determined Klay Thompson will be trouble for the rest of the league. Perhaps by the time this year is over, and the Warriors are raising yet another banner in the stands, the committee will consider updating the list with Klay's name instead of Harden's.