4 Lessons from Klay Thompson's Career

What Can You Learn from a "Splash Brother"?

Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson's career offers lessons for your career.

The Golden State Warriors came seemingly out of nowhere to capture the hearts and minds of basketball fans all over the globe by capturing the 2014-15 NBA Championship and following up on that feat by winning a record 73 games.

The team is full of inspiring stories which have been profiled here including head coach Steve Kerr, NBA Most Valuable player Stephen Curry and Draymond Green who blossomed from second round draft choice to All-Star.

Another key player on the team is Curry's fellow "Splash Brother" Klay Thompson (The "Splash" refers to the sound of three-pointers swishing through the net. Here is the story on the nickname's origin).  While Curry gets the most media attention and Green is the most vocal player on the team, looking at Thompson's career provides interesting lessons for you and your career.

Thompson entered the league after being the 11th selection in the 2011 NBA Draft. He played his college ball at Washington State University where averaged 19.6 points per game as a sophomore and 21.6 per game as a junior in his final season. His career three-point shooting percentage as a collegian was 39 percent, foreshadowing his success as a great shooter from the three-point line in the NBA. Also, his attempts per game increased each year from 5 per game as a freshman to 6.7 as a sophomore to 7.2 as a junior.

Once in the NBA, he established himself as a starter by his second year.

Thompson's three-point shooting attempts followed a path similar to his college numbers. Through his first five seasons, his triples attempted rose from 4.1 per game to 8.1 per game. Correspondingly his points per game jumped from 12.5 as a rookie to 22.1 in his fifth season and increased each year.

  His excellent play was recognized by the league's coaches as he was named to play in the annual All Star game in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Interestingly, after his third season in the NBA, trade rumors swirled that Thompson was to be dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for forward Kevin Love. Love was subsequently dealt by the Timberwolves to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and other considerations. 

Shortly thereafter, Thompson signed an extension with the Warriors, signaling that he was to remain part of the core of the team, along with Curry and Green, for years to come. His current deal runs through the 2018-19 season and averages nearly $18 million per season for the next three years.

The first five seasons of Klay Thompson's career have some great lessons. Here are a four of them:

If You Want to Get Noticed, Be on a Winning Team

While it true that Thompson was improving every year, as indicated in his statistics cited above, it is important to remember that he was part of a team, too. The Warriors win totals for his first five seasons were 23 (66 game season), 47, 51, 67 and 73.  What happens in the NBA when a team starts to experience success?

Increased media coverage, more nationally televised games and postseason coverage. Thompson certainly improved over those five years, but the increased media coverage undoubtedly amplified his accomplishments and brought them to a broader audience.

In your professional career, the same logic applies. If you can help your "team" win - whether that is a department or division or the company - others outside of your sphere will notice, which can lead to career opportunities. While careers are often seen as individualistic, almost everyone works in a team environment. So remember that when your team wins you will look good - and more people will notice.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Thompson did not burst onto the NBA scene as a star. But gradually over a three to five-year period, he became one.

Patience is one of the hardest attributes to develop, as we live in a world of instant accessibility. But it is a necessary component of career progression in many instances, especially early in your career.

Just as you can close your eyes and imagine Thompson working in the off season - on his shot, his ball handling, his fitness - you need to take the same approach to developing your appropriate professional skill set. Then give yourself the needed time to impress others.  Hard work and patience - as seen in the short film from Gary Vaynerchuk - are keys to unlocking your career's potential

Who Will Stand Up for You? 

The Thompson for Love trade rumors that swirled in the summer of 2014 now seem like a distant memory. It has since been reported that hoops legend Jerry West, who is part of the Warriors front office brain trust, threatened to resign if Thompson were traded. As the team went on to gel and win the NBA title the following season, in hindsight West was right to not relinquish Thompson.

In your work environment can you work to develop someone who would fight for you, as West did for Thompson?

To Play Your Best, You Have to Be Healthy

Part of the success of every professional athlete's career is staying healthy and avoiding injuries, as it is difficult to make an impact on the bench nursing injuries. The first five years of Thompson's career are a prime example, as he played in 386 of 394 games that the Warriors played.

Regardless of your profession being able to perform at your best is a key to success. The metric for Thompson's success was that he missed only eight  games in five grueling NBA seasons. But showing up to work every day is certainly not enough, you have to be able to not just perform, but perform to the best of your abilities. To do so, make sure that you are getting regular exercise and monitoring your sleep patterns, just like professional athletes (and their trainers) do. Taking a 360-degree look at your health and wellness can unlock increased performance in your career.