Klay Thompson honors the Cougs with his time. He honors the Cougs with his support. And every now and then, he honors the Cougs by hitting 10 three-pointers or scoring 37 points in one freakin’ quarter.
First things first: Klay Thompson loves being a Coug.
The individual records, the NBA title, his team’s current pursuit of history — in Thompson’s mind, none of that is possible without Washington State.
That’s why you’ll see him visiting Pullman in the offseason and referring to fellow Cougars as “family.” He wants to give back to an institution that helped give him more than he ever thought possible.
“WSU has a special place in my heart,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for everything in my past. I try to honor that as much as possible.”
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So he honors the Cougs with his time. He honors the Cougs with his support. And every now and then, he honors the Cougs by hitting 10 three-pointers or scoring 37 points in one freakin’ quarter.
With 21.5 points per game, Thompson is the second-leading scorer for what might end up being the best team in NBA history. The leading scorer, of course, is Stephen Curry, the extraterrestrial who has helped push the Warriors to a 49-5 start.
The oft-used analogy is that Klay is “Robin to Curry’s Batman,” and for the most part, that’s true. It’s just that, in this dynamic, Robin has no problem stealing the keys to the Batmobile and wearing Bruce Wayne’s suit.
Thompson has scored at least 34 points seven times this season and has posted more than 40 twice. Last year, he had a 52-point game vs. the Kings, when he made 13 straight shots and logged the record-breaking 37-point third quarter.
Interestingly enough, four of the aforementioned 34-point-plus games came when Curry was either injured or held to under 20 points. So if Golden State does end up breaking the 1995-96 Bulls’ 72-win total, Klay won’t just be the spot-up shooter who put the ball in the net — he’ll be the All-Star who bailed his team out of losses.
“He’s saved a lot of games for us,” Warriors big man Marreese Speights said. “I don’t think Klay understands how big he is in the world.”
Eh, maybe he does or maybe he doesn’t. The more pertinent thing is — Klay doesn’t seem to care how big he is in the world.
Maybe his humility stems from the fact his father, Mychal, was a former No. 1 overall pick, and that matching his old man’s accomplishments always seemed far-fetched. Or perhaps it’s because he wasn’t heavily recruited out of Santa Margarita Catholic in Southern California, which kept his head small but mind focused. Or maybe it’s as simple as DNA — that Thompson just isn’t wired to brag despite all the achievements he boasts.
“He reminds me a lot of Brandon Roy,” said former Washington State coach Ken Bone, who, upon replacing Tony Bennett, inherited Klay as a sophomore. “When you compare their personalities they’re very similar. They’re both great players who are not always trying to steal shows, but they can take over if they have to.”
In a parallel universe, it’d be tough to say how effective Thompson would be as the No.1 option on another team. There is no doubt he benefits from the defensive attention Curry attracts, and he can flame out just as easily as he catches fire.
You’ll see a 3-of-12 shooting game one day, then a 4-of-14, then a 4-of-15 night with just one rebound and a pair of assists. But what you never see is Klay losing confidence after a couple of subpar performances.
One of Bone’s more salient memories of Thompson at Wazzu came during a stretch in which he missed 24 straight field goal attempts over three games. However, in his final home game of the season, against Washington no less, Klay snapped the skid by sinking a game-tying three-pointer in the second half to cap a 16-point Cougs comeback. WSU won the game.
These days, you’re not going to see too many of those cold streaks. Thompson’s 167 three-pointers rank second in the league behind Curry. He hit four more Saturday night in a 115-112 victory at the Clippers when he scored 32 points, half of which came in the first quarter. He also beat Steph in the three-point contest during All-Star weekend last Saturday, tying Curry’s record of 27 points.
No, Thompson doesn’t think he has surpassed his teammate in the art of sharpshooting yet, but he’s certainly getting close.
If you had 50 shooting contests with Steph, what would your record be?
“Hmm,” Klay said. “I’m saying I’d be 23-27.”
That said, the Warriors’ record as a team is the bigger talking point right now, and while they would be good regardless of the players’ personalities, their chemistry is what makes them potentially historic.
Thompson could have an ego if he wanted. He could lament his role as the baby Splash Brother. He could cite his scoring barrages and demand more touches, but he doesn’t — and his team is the favorite to repeat as NBA champs.
John Wooden once said, “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.”
Know this: Thompson doesn’t care if he gets the credit. But boy, oh, boy, does he deserve it.