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News / Clark County News

Greg Jayne: On Mother’s Day, this mom will watch Klay

Commentary: Greg Jayne

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: May 11, 2013, 5:00pm

Julie Thompson’s Mother’s Day will be different from most.

Sure, there might be cards and flowers and glowing testimonials, but it’s not every mom who gets to spend Mother’s Day watching her son play in the second round of the NBA playoffs. It’s not every mom who has a child who suddenly has become the talk of the league.

That’s Thompson’s current reality. But first, a little background.

As Julie Leslie, a 1982 graduate of Ridgefield High School, she made a name for herself as a volleyball player. She went on to compete at the Division I level for the University of Portland and then the University of San Francisco.

For the past 25 years, she probably has been better known as the wife of Mychal Thompson, a former Trail Blazer who once was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and now is a radio announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers.

But now? Now Julie Thompson is best known as the mother of the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson.

Isn’t that the fondest hope of any parent? That our children are successful at whatever they choose to do? That we become known for what they accomplish rather than for our previous lives?

“It’s fun to watch him do something he loves,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “And, of course, I think he’s really good at it.”

He certainly is. On Wednesday, Klay Thompson vaulted into the consciousness of NBA fans by scoring 29 points in the first half of a Game 2 victory against the San Antonio Spurs. He has teamed with Stephen Curry to shoot a scare into the heavily favored Spurs, leading Golden State coach Mark Jackson to proclaim that he has the best-shooting backcourt in the history of the game.

All of which gives Southwest Washington a little bit of ownership in these NBA playoffs, even though the Thompsons live in Southern California. Julie Thompson’s parents and two brothers still live in this area, and when Klay was selected with the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft out of Washington State, he gave a shoutout to family members in Vancouver.

So, with a mom who was a volleyball player and a dad who was an NBA player, maybe Klay was destined to be a professional athlete.

“I think on one of our first dates, Mychal said, ‘Hey, we would have an All-American,’ ” Julie recalled with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Oh brother.’ I just rolled my eyes.”

That, they say, is Mychal being Mychal. He’s gregarious and outspoken, and Julie is happy to yield the spotlight.

“I’m so OK with his dad getting all the attention,” she said. “Can you tell I’m much different from Mychal? I am the humble person in the family, so I don’t like to be interviewed.”

Still, Julie Thompson has a story to tell. It’s the story of a woman who has raised a budding NBA star; another son, Mychel, who played basketball at Pepperdine and in the NBA D-League; and yet another son, Trayce, who is playing baseball at the Double-A level in the Chicago White Sox organization.

It’s a story of selfless dedication that is the very reason we celebrate Mother’s Day.

Yet Thompson’s humility shows through when she mentions a college volleyball teammate: “I can’t even say I did anything if she’s raising 11 kids.”

So, Julie Thompson does her best to deflect the glory. But a little reflected glory is impossible to avoid.

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“I was working out, and I got done and my phone was overflowing and it was all about Klay,” Julie recalled. “I thought, ‘This must be what it’s like to be Klay every day.’ “

Klay is now the star in the family. And Julie Thompson wouldn’t have it any other way.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. Follow him on Twitter: @col_gjayne