In a bizarro universe where everything is the same with the only difference being that Stephen Curry never existed, is the same one where Klay Thompson would be considered the best shooter in NBA, and perhaps in all of the league’s history.
The “other” Splash Brother has multiple games of 10 or more three-pointers in one game. There’s no question about his ability to shoot from distance, but just as some wonder what Curry’s race and background is, there are some that also wonder whether what Klay Thompson’s ethnicity is.
I like to believe that the curiosity doesn’t come from a bad place. As a country, we’re still navigating and understanding race. It’s tough when the vast majority of Americans live in areas that lack racial diversity and even when they do, races don’t always live or socialize in the same areas. Due to the lack of cultural understanding and personal connection, what might seem like common sense is lost, so when there’s the opportunity to discuss race in popular culture, sometimes we have to start with the most basic of questions.
In this case, finding out whether Klay Thompson is mixed or not may provide the groundwork to better understand the intricacies of race. The same goes with other players that bring up the sensitive topic such as Blake Griffin, Zach Lavine and Devin Booker.
With that out of the way, to start the conversation about Klay Thompson’s race, let’s start by looking at his parent’s background.
Klay Thompson’s Father is Former NBA Player Mychal Thompson
To the casual NBA fan, most won’t know that Klay Thompson comes from NBA blood. Like Curry, Thompson’s father played in the NBA. In fact, Mychal Thompson was the number one overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft. And though the elder Thompson wouldn’t live up to his draft position, he carved out a solid 14-year career with the Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs before winning a couple championships with the Magic Johnson -led Los Angeles Lakers (1986-87, 1987-88). Mychal was born in Nassau, Bahamas and came over to the United States in his younger years.
The assumption in the United States that “Black Americans” always means “African-Americans” and that simply isn’t true, there’s also “Black” people in the United States from the Caribbean, like Mychal Thompson.
It is not uncommon for Caribbean-Americans that prefer not to have their culture lumped into into the larger “Black American” race category for a variety of reasons.
What About Klay Thompson’s Mother?
Klay Thompson may have an NBA pedigree from his father, but having a mom that played college volleyball at the University of San Francisco didn’t hurt his professional basketball career whatsoever. Before taking the Thompson last name in 1987, she was Julie Leslie. Leslie grew up in Washington State as a high school track and volleyball star.
Without finding any information on Leslie’s ethnicity, we’ll look at her maiden name for clues. “Leslie” is a Scottish surname tracing back 1067 (the year!). From House of Names:
The surname Leslie was first found in Aberdeenshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Obar Dheathain), a historic county, and present day Council Area of Aberdeen, located in the Grampian region of northeastern Scotland, where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated on the lands of Leslie, andit is said that they were descended from Bartholomew Leslyn, son of Walter de Leslyn, a Flemish knight who attended Queen Margaret when she arrived to marry King Malcolm of Scotland in 1067.
So there you have it. The “Leslie” last name has a long history in Europe.
So What is Klay Thompson’s Race?
Considering that his father has an Afro-Caribbean background and his mother’s family rooted in Europe, Klay, and his two brothers Trayce and Mychel, are of mixed-race. Though many are tempted to classify the Thompson siblings as simply “mixed Black and White” — know that race and racial identity is a complicated and charged subject* with perhaps it’s own prejudices in the NBA.
Not to mention race in the United States, specifically how the country is becoming more and more multicultural (and on the other side, there’s Donald Trump).
* If the “What is Stephen Curry’s race?” post is any indication, attempting to identify Klay’s race is probably as controversial. With that experience, we want to make it clear: this isn’t a post to make race a bigger issue or to further one group’s claim of Thompson over another’s. It’s simply a question that many have and Interbasket wants to bring together all the facts to create an informative post that furthers the discussion and understanding.