Warriors' Stephen Curry praises Klay Thompson's impact: 'Not a chance' career is same without him
The Splash Brothers have been together since 2011, and they complement each other perfectly
On Saturday night, Klay Thompson had his college uniform retired at Washington State University, and his Splash Brother in crime, Stephen Curry, along with a host of current and former Golden State Warriors' representatives, were in the house to support him. Thompson's connection to Washington State is as special as it is unique. He wasn't a five-star recruit. He was an overlooked star perfect for an afterthought program.
Things have obviously changed quite a bit for Thompson since his days in Pullman. There's nothing overlooked about him anymore. He's a three-time NBA champion, and along with Curry, half of the most prolific shooting tandem in NBA history. So it was fitting Curry was there Saturday night, celebrating Thompson's college career during a lost season for the Warriors.
The two, in many ways, have etched out inseparable legacies to this point. During the first half, Curry did an interview with the Pac-12 Network in which he was asked if he believes his career would've been the same without Thompson playing alongside him.
"No, not a chance," Curry said. "Situation is everything."
For starters, Curry's comments, and his presence alone, says a lot about the two as teammates and as friends. Not all stars get along. Some players as great Thompson, who'd been the best shooter and best player on every team he'd ever been on until he got to the Warriors, would maybe resent the individual success Curry has had and all the attention he gets. But not Thompson. Just like his days at Washington State, he doesn't need the spotlight. He just wants to hoop.
Conversely, when it's Thompson's time to shine, Curry is the first one rolling out the red carpet for his teammate, going out of his way to feed him when he's on one of his notorious hot streaks, cheering for him on the bench and crediting him for the things a lot of people don't notice.
Indeed, Curry and Klay are perfect complements for one another on the court. Curry, through a much improved and capable defender, can struggle to defend bigger, more athletic guards one-on-one. So Thompson often does it for him. On the flip side, Thompson is a classic catch-and-shoot player. He wants to come off screens and fire. Though much improved off the bounce, Klay is not an elite ball-handler or one-on-one shot creator. Curry is. He gets Thompson shots he could not get for himself.
And when the two aren't covering for each other's relative weaknesses, they're enhancing one another's strengths. If Curry were on a team with a lesser-shooting backcourt mate, he would see even more defensive attention that he already does. Thompson, meanwhile, would never get the looks he gets playing alongside Curry if he were playing somewhere where he was the No. 1 option. To be probably the second-greatest shooter ever and still not be the defense's top priority is a luxury no shooter even close to Thompson's caliber has ever enjoyed.
When it comes to the Warriors and the historic success they've had over the last five years, a debate that never fully goes away is what they would be without one another. And without Steve Kerr's system. It is just such a perfect fit that you wonder what Klay would look like on another team if he had to create more of his own offense, or what Draymond Green would look like if he didn't have Curry and Thompson creating oceans of space for him, or even what Curry would look like if he played in a different system, with different teammates, or if he didn't have the defensive cover he's long enjoyed with Golden State.
The truth is, all three of those guys are Hall of Famers on their own. Green is the player people would argue is the greatest beneficiary of Golden State's system and the players around him, but I've had GMs tell me flat out that he has been the most integral Warriors player these past five years, and that without him, Golden State might not have any championships.
That said, I don't think there's any question that all three of these guys have made one another better. The Warriors were a perfect storm of the right players with the right temperaments and attitudes and complimentary skillsets coming together at the perfect time. And the results speak for themselves.
When it's all said and done, Curry is going to go down as the best player of the trio and the best player in Warriors history. But it will be tough to mention him without his Splash Brother showing up in the same sentence. They just go together. It was former Warriors coach Mark Jackson who beat everyone to the punch when he said Curry and Thompson are the greatest shooting backcourt of all-time. He said that before anyone else was ready to even consider having such a conversation. And he was right.
In fact, Jackson might have even been underselling Curry and Thompson by qualifying them as the greatest shooting backcourt. Given the way they complement one another and all the other things both of them do on the court besides shoot, and the success they've had as all-around players, you could make a strong case they're simply the greatest backcourt ever, no qualification necessary.
And to think, they're far from done. Curry is only 31. Thompson hasn't even turned 30 yet. Next season they'll both be back healthy and gunning for another championship. From a statistical standpoint, the shooting marks these two are going to have by end of their careers are going to be mind-blowing, even in an era of unparalleled 3-point shooting volume.
Saying Thompson and Curry have helped one another reach a level of greatness they perhaps wouldn't have reached on their own isn't a knock on either one of them individually. It's a credit to the power of situation, and the humility of both guys to accept whatever role they've been asked to play in it.
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