Thompson’s return not without precedent

Klay Thompson celebrates a three-point basket for the Golden State Warriors. 
PHOTO: REUTERS
Klay Thompson celebrates a three-point basket for the Golden State Warriors. PHOTO: REUTERS
Basketballer Klay Thompson returned to the NBA after a 941-day injury layoff on Monday. Jeff Cheshire takes a look at some of the longest stints between outings in sporting history.

KLAY THOMPSON
Basketball
941 days

Tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and, just as he was set to come back, suffered a long-term Achilles tendon injury last year. Among the best pure shooters to have played the game and an exceptional defender, Thompson was integral to the Golden State Warriors’ dominance in 2015-19.

Usman Khawaja raises his bat after scoring back-to-back centuries in the fourth Ashes test at the...
Usman Khawaja raises his bat after scoring back-to-back centuries in the fourth Ashes test at the Sydney Cricket Ground. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
USMAN KHAWAJA
Cricket
867 days

A regular in the Australian test top order between 2015 and 2019, Khawaja has been in test match wilderness over the past two and a-half years. Returned in place of Travis Head for the most recent Ashes test, posting centuries in both innings.

Temepara Bailey in action for the Northern Stars in 2019. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Temepara Bailey in action for the Northern Stars in 2019. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
TEMEPARA BAILEY
Netball
1778 days

Bailey (nee George) became one of New Zealand’s greatest midcourters through the 2000s. Wound up her elite netball career in 2012, answered an SOS in 2014, and seemed well past her top-level playing days by the time she was an assistant coach with the Northern Stars. It seemed like a desperation move when she was called in as an emergency replacement, as a 43-year-old, in 2019. Only, it turned out she was still pretty good. She started as the team made the playoffs, shocked the Southern Steel and progressed to the ANZ Premiership final.

Jeff Wilson shares a joke with World XI captain Shane Warne during the one-dayer in Wellington in...
Jeff Wilson shares a joke with World XI captain Shane Warne during the one-dayer in Wellington in 2005. PHOTO: REUTERS
JEFF WILSON
Cricket
4344 days

Debuted for the Black Caps against Australia as a 19-year-old in 1993. Could have been set to become one of New Zealand’s great all-rounders, but turned his attention to rugby and became an all-time great outside back. Returned to cricket following his retirement from rugby in 2002, making his way back into the Black Caps in 2005 after a 12-year hiatus — which included playing in the first twenty20 international.

George Foreman fights Michael Moorer in 1994. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
George Foreman fights Michael Moorer in 1994. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
GEORGE FOREMAN
Boxing
3644 days

One of the most fearsome punchers in boxing history, Foreman forged a reputation as one of the sport’s greatest heavyweights during the 1970s. He retired in 1977, becoming a born-again Christian following a near-death experience after a loss to Jimmy Young. A decade later, he returned to the ring as a 38-year-old. In 1994, as a 45-year-old, he stunned the world by beating Michael Moorer — reclaiming the heavyweight title he had lost 20 years earlier. Retired with a 76-5 record in 1997.

Justin Gatlin returned from a long drugs ban to become world 100m champion. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Justin Gatlin returned from a long drugs ban to become world 100m champion. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
JUSTIN GATLIN
Athletics
1332 days

The American sprinter was the fastest man on the planet and the reigning Olympic 100m champion when he received a four-year drug ban in 2006. Returned in 2010, as a 28-year-old, winning bronze and silver medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics respectively. In 2017, he finally toppled Usain Bolt in the 100m final to regain the world title he last won in 2005. Two years later, he won silver at the 2019 championships, before injury derailed his campaign to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Monica Seles was stabbed during a match but became a grand slam champion again on her return....
Monica Seles was stabbed during a match but became a grand slam champion again on her return. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
MONICA SELES
Tennis
836 days

Dominated women’s tennis throughout the early 1990s, before being stabbed mid-match by a fan obsessed with rival Steffi Graf in Hamburg in 1993. Emerged after a two-year hiatus in 1995 and won the Australian Open the following January. She was unable to consistently display her best form after her comeback, though, and it was the only grand slam she added to her pre-stabbing total. Continued to play professionally until 2003, although did not officially retire until 2008.

Colin Cowdrey trains in the nets in front of a captive audience in Australia in 1963. PHOTO:...
Colin Cowdrey trains in the nets in front of a captive audience in Australia in 1963. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
COLIN COWDREY
Cricket
1289 days

A regular in the England test team throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Cowdrey had been long gone from the international scene by the 1974-75 summer. But as England was tormented by the pace and aggression of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson in the Ashes, the tourists recalled the 41-year-old to offer resistance.

Muhammad Ali appears in his final fight against Trevor Berbick in 1981. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Muhammad Ali appears in his final fight against Trevor Berbick in 1981. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
MUHAMMAD ALI
Boxing
1314 days

Ali was the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world when he refused to be drafted into the United States military in 1967. He subsequently had his boxing licence revoked in every state, leaving him unable to fight for three years. Came back in 1970 and while he lost his first title shot — to Joe Frazier in the "Fight of the Century" — he went on to reclaim the world title in 1974. Held the belts until 1978 and had his last fight in 1981.

Magic Johnson talks to the media after making his comeback in 1996. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Magic Johnson talks to the media after making his comeback in 1996. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
MAGIC JOHNSON
Basketball
1544 days

Johnson was probably the best player in the NBA when he revealed he had tested positive for HIV in 1991 and would retire from basketball immediately. It was one of the biggest bombshell moments in sports history. Johnson returned to the basketball court for both that season’s All Star game and the 1992 Olympics, before playing 32 games for the Los Angeles in 1995-96. More significantly, he became an influential figure in the fight against HIV/Aids. He remains alive and a popular figure 30 years later.

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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