LADERA RANCH -- Mychal Thompson didn't mince words when his son Klay got involved in his first NBA skirmish in February by shoving Indiana's Roy Hibbert in the back. He went on the airwaves in Los Angeles, where he is a radio host, to talk about the actions of his "dumb son" who, for his fine-inducing shove, would also get his allowance docked by his parents.

When reminded of the episode, Klay Thompson, the Warriors' soft-spoken 23-year-old guard, just smiled.

"I'm used to it," he said. "He's been like that all my life. He's got jokes."

He's also got lectures and advice and context, having walked the path as a professional basketball player his son is now traveling. Which is why Thompson listens closely to his dad. The public remarks, lighthearted or not, might produce cringes from the outside world, but inside the home where Klay and his two brothers grew up, it becomes clear why criticism doesn't faze Klay, why his confidence never wavers, why his persona is so casual and laid-back.

In terms of looks, he closely resembles his mother, Julie, a former University of San Francisco volleyball player. But in terms of most everything, Klay is his father's son.

They're "just alike -- they're both so cocky," Julie said through a laugh.

His three sons


Advertisement

Mychal Thompson is 58 now, and his 6-foot-10 frame is long past the spryness that made him an astounding leaper in his heyday. But the former No. 1 overall pick, who played 12 seasons in the NBA and won two titles with the Lakers, is still an active father.

He no longer plays baseball with his boys in the front yard, where he often was accused of grooving meatballs to the youngest, Trayce, now a center fielder in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. He no longer takes the court with Klay or the eldest son, Mychel, backing them down for easy baskets whenever they got close to winning. And he no longer sprays water in their face to get them up in the morning.

 Klay as a kid with his dad Mychal in a family photo.
Klay as a kid with his dad Mychal in a family photo. (Sean Hiller/Daily Breeze)

What Mychal Thompson still can do is offer -- sometimes force-feed -- his wisdom.

Don't find your next girlfriend in a nightclub.

Playing defense will set you apart.

Being late to anything is unacceptable.

His advice can be relentless, his criticism blunt. "But," Mychal Thompson asked, within earshot of the boys, "how often am I right?"

"I'd say 99.9 percent of the time," said Mychel, who spent last season in the NBA Development League after a year with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Yeah," Klay chimed in without looking up from his phone. "I'd go with that."

Klay, who was staying with his parents in Orange County before heading to China for an NBA event, has heard all the tips, warnings and stories, and reacts like most young adults.

Burgeoning NBA star Klay Thompson on the Golden State Warriors has big shoes to fill. His father, Mychal Thompson, was a No. 1 overall pick and a key role
Burgeoning NBA star Klay Thompson on the Golden State Warriors has big shoes to fill. His father, Mychal Thompson, was a No. 1 overall pick and a key role player during the Lakers' Showtime heyday. Klay is following in his father's footsteps, but also doing it his own way. Where the dad was a leaper, the son is a shooter, who has suddenly blossomed into a lockdown defender. (Sean Hiller/Daily Breeze)

When Dad was happily recounting an obscure feat, son was ready with a timely jab.

"I scored more points in my first two games than any other No. 1 pick ever," Dad said proudly.

"How many did you score in your third game?" Klay rebutted.

"Two," his dad confessed. "I was 1 for 11 shooting. I couldn't make a shot."

Mom plays the role of referee, sometimes nudging her husband to take it easy on their sons, other times joining her husband in whipping them into shape.

They give their dad grief sometimes and debate with him, good ol' father-son give and take. But their reverence is clear.

"At times, I'm sure like any kid, they get tired of hearing him," said Jerry Debusk, who coached all three Thompson children at Santa Margarita High. "But you talk about the respect factor, they know there is no one better to listen to."

Klay recognizes the asset he has in his corner. While many NBA players are surrounded by yes men, he always has a reality check waiting for him. When he messes up -- like the time he got caught with marijuana at Washington State, eliciting another radio-wave lecture from Dad -- he already knows nobody is going to cover for him.

Nor does Klay Thompson ever have to wonder how he might improve his game.

Minutes into a photo shoot on the court of the high school gym, the dad was showing the son how to score over smaller guards in the post.

"What are you fading for?" he said. "Nobody's going to block your shot."

Dad thinks son needs to get to the free-throw line more, twice per quarter, which he said could be accomplished if his son drove right more often.

And don't get him started on missed layups -- or, as Mychal and other critics have come to call them: Klay-ups.

"Nobody misses more layups than Klay," Mychal said, smiling. "That's got to change next year."

Klay seemed oblivious to his father's critiques, lost in a playful shooting exhibition. But Dad knows he's always listening.

He knows he listens because his son doesn't have an entourage and doesn't blow his money. He doesn't wear gaudy jewelry and didn't buy his all-black Mercedes-Benz new.

"If I bought it new, it would've cost a hundred thousand. That's crazy," said the second-year guard who made $2.2 million last season.

Dad knows the son listens because he takes the game seriously. He plays hard, he works on his craft, he respects the game.

"He's been a very loving, passionate dad," said Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who played against Mychal Thompson in the 1980s. "He is fully invested in his kids. You can tell not only by their success in sports but, more important, in the men they have become."

Respect the game

Mychal Thompson earned everything he got.

He moved from Nassau in the Bahamas to Miami, where he became a high school basketball star and received a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.

As the top pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1978 draft, five slots ahead of Larry Bird, Thompson never became the dominant star many expected. But he carved out a respectable career, averaging 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds.

His wife, whom he met in a gym at the University of Portland, suggests basketball wasn't his consuming passion. But playing under coaches such as Jack Ramsay and Pat Riley, and with Magic Johnson as his point guard in Los Angeles, he developed a healthy professionalism.

He said he isn't hard on his boys -- "I should've been harder on Mychel; he needs that kick in the butt more" -- but he is serious about them having respect for the game and the opportunity in front of them. It's perhaps the lesson he stresses the most to his boys.

"I tell Klay all the time, 'Look at your peers. They're all looking for jobs,' " the father said. "Don't lose perspective and don't take things for granted."

All signs indicate that Klay does not. Hidden amid his mild demeanor is a supreme confidence. The way Jackson often puts it: Thompson wants to be great.

That comes from his dad. Dad is the one who said Klay, then just a college freshman, would be a top NBA pick. He's the one who has convinced Klay that he can't be stopped if he just plays his game.

"The only time I've ever been worried about Klay on the court was his first time going against Kobe (Bryant) his rookie year," the father recalled. "I know Kobe is an assassin and he goes at you to test you, especially with him being my son. But Klay held his own. After that, I knew he'd be fine."

With playoff experience under Klay's belt, the father predicts a breakout season is coming next. He loves how Jackson treats his players. He says the Warriors, if healthy, are a real contender in the West. Still, he doesn't hide his desire for his son to play for the Lakers someday.

"Would the Warriors take Dwight Howard for Klay and (Andrew) Bogut?" he pondered aloud.

The living room grew silent. The focus turned to the middle son, who seemed to be paying no attention as his thumbs danced across the screen of his phone.

"I'm fine where I'm at," Klay said, his eyes never straying from the screen.

He was listening. He is always listening to his dad.