Klay Thompson, it can sometimes seem, is the Golden State Warriors’ forgotten superstar, not as effervescent as Steph Curry, undeniable as Kevin Durant, or loud and full of braggadocio as Draymond Green. But here’s something basically all Chinese basketball fans know: Thompson is cool. He has personality and swag. He’s goofy and fun, and doesn’t seem afraid to have fun at his own expense.
Witness the above, which is Chinese sneaker company Anta’s most recent Klay Thompson commercial, in which a Chinese director (who’s speaking with a Cantonese accent, for what it’s worth) tries to get the Golden State sharpshooter to smile.
“Ssss-mai-ou-a,” the frustrated director implores. “Okay?”
Thompson signed a 10-year deal worth as much as $80 million with Anta last July to be the centerpiece of the ambitious sneaker company’s efforts to win the China market. Thompson has been doing his part, too. During the summer, he embarked on a tour that saw him dance to EDM, dance some more, and (attempt to) dunk. He also made this funny, somewhat discombobulating commercial in which he sits in a bathtub filled with shoes (his shoes, the KT3) while pretending to talk into a shoe as if it were a mobile phone. All in all, he looks like he’s having a fun time with his $80 million contract.
But his best China work is probably above, in which he promotes a new red version of the KT3. He looks like he’s enjoying every minute of it.
While the Houston Rockets remain Chinese fans’ favorite team, Thompson’s Golden State Warriors have a legitimate and dedicated following in China, and as recently as last year, Warrior Steph Curry had the country’s best-selling NBA jersey (he was recently supplanted by LeBron James). We would venture to guess that Thompson is soaring up the charts, in part because he seems to have embraced his potential to be Anta’s biggest star.
“I knew with the other brands in the States, whether it was Nike or Adidas, it was going to be tough for me to get a signature shoe,” Thompson told Nice Kicks in a June 2017 feature. “I knew with Anta, I would have so much input creatively. I was going to hopefully be the Michael Jordan one day of Anta. That really resonated with me, and knowing that I could be really big in China, that was really cool to me. The shoe market sometimes is overflooded in the States, and I thought, ‘Well, why not branch out and be global.’”
Other than the United States, there’s no bigger place to “be global” than China, which has north of 300 million basketball fans, per NBA estimates. Thompson’s in a good place. He really ought to smile more.