According to a fantastic oral history from The Athletic, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson always tries to get his teammates motivated for games against their former teams. If they were getting ready to play the Bucks, he’d yell, “They didn’t want you, Zaza!” because Milwaukee traded him away in 2015. He even does that for obscure jobs, like Mike Brown’s brief role as a video coordinator in Denver.
So it’s not a surprise that the power of “They didn’t want you!” has helped power the Warriors this year. Andrew Wiggins shot 14/19 and scored 35 points against the Timberwolves, including a bunch of posterizations of his old teammate, Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota didn’t want him, and even attached a lottery pick to dump him. Former T-Wolf Nemanja Bjelica had nine points, a steal, and a block on his way to a +10 outing. On the other side, D’Angelo Russell had 18 points and four turnovers on his way to a -13 plus-minus for the game, probably because he wasn’t on the Warriors long enough to feel rejected by them.
Even Otto Porter Junior ignored a thigh contusion and returned to a game against his old Chicago Bulls that was completely out of reach, just so he could rack up five revenge points. Of course, Draymond Green’s “They didn’t want you!” extends to the entire NBA, since he dropped all the way to the 35th pick. And he can recite every player drafted ahead of him.
“They didn’t want you!” works for coaches, too. Mike Brown went 3-0 in the 2017 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who fired him twice. Why didn’t the Warriors sweep? Because Steve Kerr returned, and his instinct for revenge was much less fresh, since Cleveland traded him away back in 1992. As a coach and a player, Kerr is 18-7 against the Cavaliers lifetime. Hope trading him for Reggie Geary was worth it, Cleveland!
That’s why it’s a shame if Kenny Atkinson’s leg injury keeps him off the bench against Brooklyn, who unceremoniously dumped him in 2020 after he steered the Nets’ ship through their rebuild. Regardless, we’re sure Klay will call Coach Kenny in the training room, probably from the deck of a boat, to remind him that Brooklyn didn’t want him.
UPDATE: Draymond hit Peyton Manning with a “They didn’t want you!” during Monday Night Football this week when he talked about how the Colts cut him.