The day that Trayce Thompson went 1-for-2 with an RBI in the Charlotte Knights’ 2-0 victory over Pawtucket he hurried back to his apartment. His game had been fast, and he wanted to make sure he didn’t miss another moment of the other game.
He watched as his favorite NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, captured their first NBA championship in 40 years.
He celebrated, solo, and then he had a realization: He is now the least-accomplished athlete in his family.
His father, Mychal, won two NBA titles with the L.A. Lakers.
His eldest brother, Mychel, won an NBA Development League championship with Santa Cruz in April.
And now Klay, older by just 13 months, has an NBA title with the Warriors.
Trayce always has been the outlier in his own family, though.
All the Thompson boys played just about every sport when they were children, but Trayce was the only one who’d go to bed at night clutching a bat. He was the only one who fell in love with baseball at an early age, the only one who eschewed the sport in which his father excelled so much that he was the NBA’s No. 1 pick in 1978.
“I never really gave basketball any of my attention,” Thompson said. “Baseball has been my love since I played T-ball. Usually that’s the first question anyone asks me — ‘Why are you playing baseball?’ It’s just been that way since I was a kid.”
He played some basketball, of course. Trayce and Klay would always team up for 2-on-1 games against older brother Mikey — and Mikey would usually hold his own.
In high school, Trayce won a state title Klay’s senior season, but he played more of a supporting role on a team where his older brother was the focus.
“Because we needed him to shoot — I couldn’t shoot like that — I was the one who had to step it up defensively,” Trayce Thompson said. “I could always hold my own against him. I obviously couldn’t shoot like him, but I could get to the basket.”
It was always baseball that drew Trayce Thompson, though. He was so good he was the Chicago White Sox’s second-round draft choice in 2009, and he’s been trying to make his way to the big leagues ever since he went pro immediately after high school.
Now 24, with seven seasons of minor league experience, his .275 batting average with Charlotte is his best since he began playing professional baseball — outside of a 14-game stint with Double-A Birmingham in 2012 when he hit .280.
“This is what baseball’s looking for — these young players coming up who are exciting,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said. “They bring a lot to the table. That’s what we hope for with Trayce.”
Thompson, who had nine home runs and 33 RBI through June 30, has had to be patient while developing. He’s gone from hitting .188 in his 2009 minor-league debut with Bristol to .253 for three different teams — Single-A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Charlotte — in 2012.
“It’s been a slow process, I’ve had my peaks and valleys,” he said. “Those last couple years have been very streaky and very inconsistent. Baseball is a game of consistency, and I think that’s why I’m doing a little bit better this year — I have a more mature approach, and I’m relaxing and letting the game come to me more. It’s just baseball.”
Dad provides advice when he can on being a professional athlete, but the world of baseball is foreign to the Thompsons. So, whenever he can, Trayce Thompson likes to return to the familiar family terrain of basketball.
Well, he did until after Klay Thompson’s freshman year at Washington State, when they played 1-on-1.
“We went and shot around at this court by our house, and I don’t think he missed a shot,” Trayce Thompson said. “It was pretty frustrating and I realized I couldn’t hang with him anymore.”
They tend to gravitate toward other competitive avenues, now.
“He’s more confident or cocky about video games or ping pong or golf or something like that, but I smack him around in all that, anyway, so it doesn’t bother me,” Trayce Thompson said, grinning.
So, maybe he hasn’t won a professional championship in sports, yet. But the day after big brother Klay won his NBA title, Trayce crushed two home runs in a 7-5 Knights victory.
It was, it turns out, a very good week for the Thompson family.