OAKLAND, Calif. -- After Klay Thompson took LeBron James to task before Game 5 of last season's NBA Finals for essentially claiming he snitched on Draymond Green while also saying James' feelings must have been hurt to resort to such squealing, the Cleveland Cavaliers proceeded to secure three consecutive victories over the Golden State Warriors to claim the NBA championship.
As the teams get set to face off for the first time since their Finals meeting on Christmas Day in Cleveland, Thompson told ESPN.com he has no regrets about the comments he made and doesn’t view them as the ammunition the Cavaliers needed to flip the series around.
“I don’t think LeBron really went to sleep, pinned that up and used that for motivation. But if he did, it’s all right,” Thompson said. “We still had three opportunities to close it out, and we didn’t. So, I don’t think that was the game-changer.”
Even with the benefit of hindsight, Thompson remains adamant his verbal jabs didn’t add unnecessary fuel to the Cavaliers’ fire.
“No. Not at all. Because, at the end of the day, you have to go out there and do it on the court,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what was said. We lost. We moved on. We’re excited about this year.”
The scene shifted back to the Bay Area for the fifth game, Golden State leading the series 3-1. The Warriors were only 48 minutes from being crowned back-to-back NBA champions.
No NBA team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals. Arrangements were being ironed out for a championship parade. The city of Cleveland appeared to be on the verge of another failure to add to its enormous pile of historical letdowns.
Green and James got into a heated exchange after getting tangled up late in Game 4, resulting in James stepping over him and Green retaliating with a swipe toward his groin. James was enraged, as he pursued Green only to be separated by teammates and officials. Following the loss, he informed the media that Green said something disrespectful to him that was "a little overboard."
Some felt James was intentionally bringing more attention to the incident knowing Green was one flagrant away from an automatic one-game suspension. Not long after James’ postgame address, it surfaced that Green called him a "b----." No one truly knows if James revealing the dialogue on the court was a premeditated tactic, but it worked.
The league suspended Green for Game 5.
The day before Game 5 at the Warriors’ practice facility, Thompson took offense to James squealing, saying, “I’ve heard a lot of bad things on that court, but at the end of the day, it stays on the court.” And the haymaker was when he said, “Obviously people have feelings. People’s feelings get hurt if they’re called a bad word. I guess his feelings just got hurt.”
When James was told of Thompson’s remarks, he just laughed. He wanted to dig into it, but he held back and just said, “It’s so hard to take the high road.”
But behind the scenes, James was ticked off, and so were his teammates. They felt this was of a taunting nature with the Cavaliers virtually on their last legs before elimination. But what bothered them more than anything, according to sources close to the team, was Marreese Speights' emoji baby bottle tweet.
“The nerve of this guy. Who the f--- is he? The 12th man?” said one Cavaliers player who requested anonymity. “That was some bulls---.”
What happened from there is history.
That final victory never occurred for the Warriors. The Cavaliers beat the Warriors three times in a row, something that hadn’t been done to them all season. A 73-9, record-breaking regular-season was tarnished just like that. James pulled off the unimaginable in breaking the city’s 52-year championship drought.
Thompson might not have any regrets on how he handled his media appearance six months ago, but maybe moving forward he’ll do things a little bit differently?
Not at all.
“I’m just going to answer the question, say what’s on my mind,” Thompson told ESPN. “We already have so much of a filter on us as athletes. There’s no point to be extra careful. Then it’s an entertainment biz, so I’m going to say what’s on my mind at the time. When the question is presented, just answer it. It’s really that simple.”
Like most basketball fans, Thompson is very much looking forward to the Christmas Day game.
“Definitely,” he said. “They’re the best team in the East, and we’re the best team in the West. We’re both fighting for that home court through the playoffs, so it obviously means something. It’s always good to play the best teams in the league and see where you’re at.”