Klay Thompson impersonator sneaks into Chase Center


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Basketball superstar Klay Thompson arrived at San Francisco’s Chase Center arena Monday, breezed past security and started shooting baskets before that night’s NBA Finals Game 5.

On his way to the court, an employee encouraged Thompson about the upcoming contest, in which getting a W over the Boston Celtics would put Thompson and his fellow Golden State Warriors within one victory of winning their fourth championship in eight years.

“Let’s get a dub today, Klay,” the man said.

“We got this,” Thompson responded.

All of that would have been unremarkable — except for the fact that the man who slipped past security wasn’t Klay Thompson.

Dawson Gurley, who’s achieved internet fame as “Fake Klay Thompson,” reprised his years-long shtick on Monday afternoon to infiltrate multiple layers of security at Chase Center and hoop it up on the Warriors’ home floor for about 10 minutes. Security then uncovered the subterfuge and kicked him out of the arena. The apparently successful stunt constitutes a major security breach of one of the most successful sports franchises in recent years, one that boasts some of the brightest stars in the sports world, including Thompson and Stephen Curry.

Gurley’s antics earned him indefinite bans from Chase Center and all future NBA games. In a letter, the Warriors’ vice president of security accused him of deliberately deceiving arena workers by pretending to be a Warriors employee. The letter said Gurley could also face criminal charges for trespassing.

Gurley did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Tuesday but said on Twitter that he wasn’t granting media interviews.

Although the Golden State Warriors did not respond to several messages from The Post, the team told SFGATE in a statement that someone “falsely impersonated a Warriors player in a deliberate attempt to access unauthorized areas within Chase Center. These actions have resulted in an indefinite ban from both Chase Center and Kaiser Permanente Arena,” in nearby Santa Cruz where the Warriors’ G League team plays its games.

Gurley, who’s 29 and 6-foot-4, has been impersonating Thompson for years. The Kansas native took up basketball at the age of 4 and played for the nationally ranked Olathe East Hawks in high school but ended his career when the only opportunity to continue it was at a community college, he told Bleacher Report for a 2017 article.

Instead, Gurley embarked on a career as YouTube prankster shortly after graduating, according to the Bleacher Report, and has steadily grown his account to about 8.2 million followers. Many of his videos document non-basketball related pranks in which Gurley, for example, gives people free Android phones in front of an Apple store or steals from fast food workers’ tip jars and then gives them $1,000 when they object.

But impersonating Thompson has been Gurley’s claim to fame, making him a Warriors fan favorite during the team’s previous championship runs in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He even got a shout-out from head coach Steve Kerr, who in 2017 told reporters that, when he caught a glimpse of Gurley, he thought, “Klay, you have a few extra burgers last night, what happened?”

On Tuesday, Gurley posted to his YouTube channel a video of his Game 5 escapade, which has been viewed more than 1.3 million times as of early Wednesday. It opens showing that Gurley entered Chase Center through a door marked “Media & Team Member Entrance.” He then put his water bottle and phone in a plastic bin and cleared a metal detector before cruising through a turnstile and past multiple security guards.

After winding through multiple hallways, he emerged on the court of the arena, which can seat more than 18,000 fans. In the video, he attacks the rim, drains jump shots and buries multiple three-pointers, the shot that earned Thompson a spot alongside Curry as one of the “Splash Brothers.” After an impressive shoot around, Gurley capped it off by somehow air balling a layup.

Then the video cuts to “The Day Before.” Clad in boxers and an NBA Finals hat, Gurley opened a hotel room door to let in a barber. Using a photo of Thompson on his cellphone, the barber sculpted Gurley’s facial hair to look like the basketball superstar, who ended up scoring 21 points on Monday to help the Warriors defeat the Celtics 104-94 and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

At first, Gurley seemed to chafe at being barred from watching the Warriors play in person. He said on Twitter that he’d spent $10,000 on tickets that weren’t being refunded, all because of someone else’s failure to screen visitors. Gurley said he did everything security asked and never claimed to be Thompson, although he was waring a Warriors hoodie, basketball shorts, and a gold headband like the one Thompson usually sports. “Why should I be banned because their security is incompetent?”

Then, Gurley said he wasn’t mad and understood why the Warriors banished him. Was it worth it to lose $10,000 in tickets and get banned from Chase Center for life?

“Absolutely,” Gurley said on Twitter. “I was an NBA player for 10 minutes bro.”

After security escorted him out of the arena, Gurley roamed the outdoor sections of the Chase Center complex. As he was doing so, a man Gurley identified as the vice president of security served him with the ban letter. “Everybody loves your enthusiasm but you just can’t deceive other employees,” the man tells Gurley.

At other times, fans stopped Gurley. Some thought he was Thompson. Others knew he was an impersonator. All wanted photos.

One woman, who thought he was Thompson, told him she was working at the Oakland hospital pediatric ward when he came to visit patients. She was one of the fans, if not the only fan, Gurley came clean to.

“Just so you know, I’m not actually Klay,” Gurley told her.

“You’re not?” the woman asked.

Then, a spark of recognition. “You’re the impersonator?”

Without hesitation, she pushed ahead, undeterred.

“Well that doesn’t matter. Let’s do it,” she said, cozying up to Gurley for the photo she intended to take with a superstar.

“Oh my god,” she said, “this is awesome.”


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