Klay Thompson is inarguably the best basketball player the Washington State Cougars have ever produced. After scoring more than 1,700 points in Pullman (third most in school history), he’s won three championships with the Golden State Warriors, scored nearly 4,000 more points than any other WSU alumnus, been named all-NBA twice and an all-star five times — in just seven-plus seasons ... and counting. He’s on a path for the basketball hall of fame.
And so it is that WSU has made the inevitable move to retire the number Thompson wore when he was a Coug.
(You might remember that photo as being from Thompson’s final home game, during which the fans chanted “ONE MORE YEAR!” Alas.)
Athletics director Pat Chun notified Klay via a very official sounding letter as he and new coach Kyle Smith visited the Cougar icon at his place of employment:
Great evening with @KlayThompson and @WSUMensHoops HC Kyle Smith. Officially told Klay #WSU will retire his jersey #1. We can’t wait to get him back home to @WSUPullman. Good luck to @warriors with the playoffs. #GoCougs #NerdBall pic.twitter.com/szGCo9PJ3A— Pat Chun (@pat_chun) April 6, 2019
I won’t say this is overdue, because I’m not sure when the proper amount of time has passed for this sort of thing to happen, but this feels like a really good time to do this — Klay’s supremacy is unquestioned, and with the hiring of Smith, there’s a “get back to the good times” vibe to the program right now. Had this been done while Kent’s ship was sinking to the bottom of the ocean, it would feel like a stunt; now, it feels like a breath of fresh air that fits nicely with the optimism surrounding the program.
It also continues what has been a concerted courting of WSU greats by Chun. Thompson and his former teammate Aron Baynes each were consulted by Chun during the process that led to Smith’s hiring — this, after Thompson advocated to a group of reporters for Smith to get an interview at his alma mater.
And when you’re trying to turn around the financial prospects of your athletics department ... well, you could do worse than
buttering up proudly honoring a guy who already has made nearly $80 million in his career — which doesn’t include the millions he’s raking in from China — and is about to sign a max contract this summer that would be worth $190 million over five seasons.
It’s a refreshing change of strategy from an athletics department that has always been notoriously poor at remaining connected with its prominent athletics alumni. I suppose the exception is the quarterback fraternity, but I would argue that has been more about Jack Thompson than anything the ADs did over the years.
Fun fact: Five players to wear it since Klay’s departure — Reggie Moore, Jackie Davis, Renard Suggs, Jamar Ergas, and (currently) Jervae Robinson, who will be the last.