Will Klay Thompson’s legacy forever be tied to Steph Curry’s?

Golden State Warriors guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry together have wrecked the NBA for the past five seasons. But Curry has received considerably more individual accolades.

The Davidson product won back-to-back MVP awards in 2015 and 2016. His 2016 award was by unanimous vote, a first in the league’s history. Curry also has made the most three-pointers in playoff history (470) while Thompson is ranked third (374).

Recently, NBA.com released its All-Decade teams for the 2010s. Curry was placed on the First Team alongside Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant. Thompson, however, wasn’t placed on any of the three teams. The players chosen over him — including Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge — aren’t terrible choices. Each has made a case to be considered one of the top players of the decade.

But Thompson, a three-time champion, has more rings than any player on the Second Team; no player on the Second Team has won a title. The only players that either match or best Thompson in championships on the Third Team are Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, with Wade having three and Bryant having five.

Thompson’s legacy is one that won’t slip through the cracks of time — no one is going to forget how the Splash Brothers changed the game. No one will forget watching Thompson and Curry launch and make threes with such ease.

But it’s interesting to consider how Thompson’s legacy will probably always be tied to Curry’s.

The men who make up one of the best backcourts in NBA history are different types of shooters. Curry can create space with his dribble and he’s got a quick release to flick the ball over the hands of opposing players. But Thompson’s spot-up shooting game is pure. If he’s open, the opposing team’s defense has already failed — he is about as automatic a shooter as they come, with a career three-point shooting average of 41.9%.

In a January game against the New York Knicks last season, Thompson dropped 43 points while only dribbling the ball four times.

Aside from his shooting, though, Thompson has been one of the Warriors’ best defenders during the team’s Finals runs. He was named to the All-Defensive Second Team for the 2018-19 season.

The world of NBA Twitter loves donning players with nicknames, particularly for when they explode for premier performances. “Untucked jersey” Kyrie Irving is unstoppable. “Masked” LeBron James scored his career-high 61 points with the Miami Heat in 2014.

Even Curry, during the early years of the Warriors’ reign, had his own thing. When his mouth guard was hanging out, Curry was feeling good and ready to light up defenses with threes.

But Thompson is no stranger to NBA lore. Sure, he’ll forever be tied to Curry, but he also will go down as one of the top five shooting guards to ever play the game.

“Game 6 Klay” is a player who comes to ball. When the Warriors were down 3-2 during the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, they needed another win to force Game 7. Thompson scored a game-high 41 points and made 11 3-pointers, the most threes ever made in a playoff game.

This year “Game 6 Klay” showed up again. In Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets, Thompson scored 21 points in the first half, finishing the game with 27. He made seven 3-pointers, leading the Warriors to a series-clinching win.

In Game 6 of this year’s NBA Finals, Thompson showed his full arsenal again — scoring a game-high 30 points and making four 3-pointers, almost single-handedly keeping the Warriors alive. Unfortunately for Thompson and the Warriors, though, he suffered a torn left ACL near the end of the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors.

The 2010s featured some of the best talent in league history. Curry is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of shooter and James’ greatness during this decade will go down as one of the best primes ever. The rise of “unicorns” — players who traditionally would be bigs, yet can do everything on the court — has helped changed the game.

He may not be a unicorn or a once-per-generation phenom like Curry, but Thompson is among the best talent the decade has had to offer. While his legacy will always be tied to Curry’s, Thompson is unlikely to be an afterthought in an era filled with elite players. He’s one half of the best backcourt to play the game and he helped change the game with Curry.

Whenever Thompson is open from coming off a screen or waiting for the ball to be kicked out, defenses can only hope that he’ll miss.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s