In an NBA Finals full of storylines (LeBron’s revenge, the Warriors looking to put icing on the cake of a 73-win season), the tale of Warriors guard Klay Thompson’s and Cavs forward Kevin Love’s baseball partnership might be the most interesting. The two were Little League teammates growing up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and according to Thompson’s father Mychal, Love was the second coming of Nolan Ryan.
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Mychal told the Mercury News that Love was already six feet tall and almost 200 pounds in middle school, by far the biggest kid on Team Lakeside, the team he and Thompson played for. Additionally, Love was so strong that “even some of his pop-ups were home runs.” But that’s not even the craziest anecdote about Love’s ability on the diamond. From the piece:
Mychal, 61, realizing that he sometimes sounded like someone reporting a Bigfoot sighting, sometimes tugged on Klay’s arm and urged him to back up his account. “Hey, can you talk about how intimidating Kevin was on the mound as a Little Leaguer? He was like Roger Clemens!”
Klay nodded politely.
Mychal, rolling again, said that Love probably threw a fastball in the mid-70-mph range and compared him to infamous sensation legend Danny Almonte (later proven to be too old to be playing Little League).
Turns out, Mychal’s estimation of Love’s pitching speed was off by 20 mph. A story published in the Pioneer Press in 2012 states that Love could actually hit 90 mph on the radar gun when he was just a freshman in high school. After giving up baseball in high school to focus on hoops, Love never pitched in a live game, but it sounds like he certainly knew how special he was throwing off a mound.
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“I always wanted to be like Randy Johnson because he was 6-foot-10,” said Love at the time. “But he was a lefty. If I was a lefty, I’d probably still be playing baseball. I still love baseball, and I always think about what if I were out on the mound.”
Love’s jettison of baseball for basketball eventually landed him at UCLA, where he starred for one season before being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Still, the thought of a 6-foot, 200 pound Love jacking home runs and throwing 90 mph as a 14-year-old in Oregon is pretty incredible.