Three-time NBA champion Klay Thompson shared his thoughts on Sept. 27 about universal gym access for all athletes to compete at the highest level, racism, social injustices, and was asked what he learned while sitting out in 2020 and missing the season.
“I think 2020 really showed us that the world needs more love,” Thompson said at a Golden State Warriors media day. “Just to try to hear people’s stories because you don’t want to be judgmental of people who have gone through so much.”
Thompson used his platform to talk about how he has perceived some of his teammate’s struggles and other people of color in the NBA. He said being raised in a private school, being one of the only kids of color, and hearing racist jokes and the N-word is hard to forget.
When you get to the NBA and get to hear from and understand where your teammates come from, you see how different people elevate their lifestyles and how hard they have to work to get to this level. Sometimes the odds are just stacked against you, whether it’s the neighborhood you grow up in or the school system you’re in.
Thompson said he grew up with certain privileges other athletes aren’t given, like gym access, AAU exposure, and the funds to participate.
It is not easy to get to the Division 1 level. According to the NCAA, there are a little over 550,000 men’s high school players and a little over 18,000 compete at just the collegiate level. Out of those 18,000 participants, only about 1% play Divison one-level men’s basketball. The amount of work put in to become one of these players and what the players go through in their home life often go unnoticed.
Alabama University forward Noah Gurley said there is definitely more exposure for basketball players in North Atlanta because there are bigger high schools, more money, and more AAU tournaments. He talked about the differences in playing on a circuit AAU team versus an independent AAU team and how it gives you an advantage over what colleges are looking at you.
“I lived in north Atlanta, but I did not play varsity until I was a sophomore,” Gurley said. “I had two offers going into my senior year. I would say that not every student is given the same opportunity and exposure as certain athletes.”
There are three circuits for the top recruits in the nation at the high school level: Nike EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet, and Under Armour Circuit. In these three AAU circuits, top college coaches and recruiters are guaranteed to be at your games. For an independent AAU team, a player is not unlikely to get looks, but it is not promised that recruiters will be at every game or make offers.
If every player had the same opportunities for AAU teams, gym access and exposure, the competition would get better and a lot more athletes could provide for their families.
Thompson said he hopes eventually everyone can receive the same education and amount of networking and gym time he did.
He said that as professional athletes and NBA players, they have a platform. It’s all right to do what they want with that platform, but let’s pay more attention to social justice issues or the community. And he’s learned that it’s a very special opportunity to have these types of platforms.