The core of the Golden State Warriors’ championship was filled with players with unique interests that spawn outside the realm of the basketball court. Steph Curry has long spoken about his love of golf and often competes in tournaments during the offseason. Andre Iguodala was one of the league’s first adopters of yoga. Klay Thompson, on the other hand, has interests in a game far different basketball.
Thompson isn’t just a fan of the game of chess, he is reportedly obsessed with the game. However, he is not necessarily alone on his team. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Warriors had a lot of chess aficionados on their team between the players and the coaches, but none were as passionate about the game as Thompson.
Thompson picked up the game when he was a middle-schooler in Portland, Oregon. He learned it during an elective course but quickly learned that it was more than a time-waster to him.
“And then I realized, wow, this is actually really fun,” Thompson said (per SF Gate). “Just for an hour, to be with your friends, hang out and play chess. It was probably the best class I’ve ever had.”
It is a hobby that Thompson maintains to this day.
Klay plays chess religiously
Now, Thompson plays the game religiously. He reportedly owns several chess boards, including travel versions he can play on the road. He also owns mobile versions he can play on his phone. Thompson takes his chess game so seriously, that he has even brought in talented chess players to help him hone his game. The Warriors reportedly called on Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen to appear during a playoff game just to meet Klay and his teammates.
Since then, Thompson said that he agreed to sit down with Carlsen and learn the ways from a true grandmaster. Thompson has long been touted as one of the most fascinating players in the NBA, and this may add to the mythos around him. Chess, however, may have some advantages that go beyond the chessboard and into Thompson’s game.
According to WooChess.com, chess can help raise IQ, let the brain meet its full potential, increase problem-solving, increase memory, and improve spatial skills. For a player on a basketball court, these skills can all come in handy, and they are all things Klay can use out on the basketball court.
Chess, not checkers
Whether the result of chess, genes, practice, or some combination of the aforementioned, Thompson has shown that he can play basketball much like he does chess. He can see the ball come to him and react in record time, as fans saw when he dropped 60 points without having to dribble the basketball more than a few times.
As far as his basketball IQ goes, the Warriors’ record with Thompson speaks for itself. Even before teammate Steph Curry went down with an injury, the team looked demonstrably worse without Thompson. He might not be the loudest star in the NBA, but he knows where to be at all times and can make teams suffer if they are not thinking two moves ahead.
Basketball, like chess, is a game that requires a proper read of one’s opponents and a grasp of the game past basic rules and algorithms. It requires the players to entrench themselves and never get too confident, as the checkmate can come soon. Coming off of five-straight NBA Finals and a boatload of awards and accolades, Thompson might be the closest thing the NBA has to a grandmaster.
Who knows, perhaps he will even get to expand his game more as he sits out the season and recovers from his knee injury.