Klay Thompson Will Break Your Brain

The Golden State Warriors sharpshooter is a lot like that guy you went to high school with who no one expected anything from, then he went on to live his best, most extravagant life.
October 30, 2018, 1:33pm
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson excited to be wearing a hat.
Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA-EFE

I want to, very briefly, talk about a guy you know. You went to high school with this fella, and you didn’t really see anything particularly amazing about him. He was a nice dude—polite, no weird rumors about him floating around—participated, like, a moderate amount in class, would occasionally toss a few brewdogs back at pool parties. He played a sport, not terribly well, he played guitar or something, more as a lark than anything, maybe he wrote for the student newspaper. I don’t know. The specifics of how this dude manifested to you probably depends on what part of the country you grew up in. This is all to say: he’s a dude, an alright guy, but he was not in, any way, extraordinary.

But then after you go to different colleges, this guy just blows up. He’s a big man on campus, everyone loves him, there’s dozens of pictures of him holding beer bongs for future professional athletes, he’s succeeding beyond your wildest dreams, studying some insanely hard stuff you could never do, arcane pre-law shit or org-chem or some such thing. You don’t see or talk to this guy anymore but, since you are friends on Facebook, you see his life explode in ways you had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA he had in him, and you are, frankly, flabbergasted.

While you are chilling with your ten friends, fucking around doing whatever, Mr. Chill Bro has BLOWN THE HELL UP, And it doesn’t end there! Before he leaves for grad school, he takes a gap year, and it blows your fucking mind, the beauty of the places he is going, the calm resonance he has with his partner, the even profounder heights he is plainly gearing up to scale. Then, he gets into grad school, crushes it there, gets an amazing job, makes fuck tons of money, and just lives an excellent life, all while you watch from the middle distance of a computer screen. You’re not mad or anything—just amazed, that the seed of this guy’s spirit, once so understated, has taken root and created a powerful, intimidating plant.

Last night, Klay Thompson—who kind of seemed like an unremarkable 3/D prospect when he entered the league—had his sun kissed-selfie-from-a-floating-bungalow-in-Thailand moment. In 27 minutes against the Chicago Bulls, Klay scored 52 points on the strength of 14 three pointers, becoming the NBA’s all-time leader for three pointers made in a game. It breaks my brain, honestly, that a thoroughly chill dude, the Anti-MJ, who has made his bones by intensely refining his skills to the point of indispensability and accepting and excelling at whatever role he has been given, is the owner of an NBA Record for ANYTHING. It’s sort of like when Scott Skiles set the one game assists record, except that Skiles, like, absolutely doesn’t deserve that record at all, while Klay almost certainly does.

Don’t mistake me, the environment in which this happened—in both the micro-and-macro senses—contributed to this happening. This NBA seasons has been FUCKING BONKERS from a pace-of-play and freedom-of-movement perspective. The tactical winds of the league blowing the good ship NBA entirely into RocketsDubsBall, to the point where almost every team in the league is putting it up with the same lusty intensity that made the Warriors seem alien-like when they started crushing the league under the boot night after night. This speedy environment was MADE for setting records, so much so that Klay’s record will probably be broken some time later this year, assuming the pace and the volume of threes being taken keeps up like this.

And the Bulls, oh my God, the Bulls. What a complete embarrassment on defense, almost certainly the worst team in the league on that end, managing to give up a whopping 92 points in the first half. Zach LaVine, who is playing the role of their best player, even if there’s just absolutely no way he really is, had the Klay card for most of the night. Zach was all too willing to ineffectually get caught on screens set by pretty much anyone, be they the Dubs bruising role-players or, uh, Steph Curry, a small point guard whose guts are made of styrofoam. On one of the three pointers, LaVine pushed into Curry’s screen so slowly that it looked like a pound cake getting mushed into the side of a sleeping dog. Klay’s last three was contested by a guy who was at least three feet behind him. It’s some of the most embarrassing shit you can imagine.

The NBA’s new freedom of movement rules—which protect off ball cutters and movers and shooters from the slams and jams of wannabe Rick Mahorns—were basically cooked in a lab to benefit Klay. But none of this detracts from his accomplishment. Klay wasn’t built for the NBA of Michael Jordan or Dwyane Wade or Tim Duncan. Like our friend, succeeding beyond the wildest predictions of the universe while we watch on Facebook, Klay was set down in soil that was perfectly suited to make him bloom into something beautiful and unstoppable. Hours of tedious work manufacturing a perfect wing jump shot and a commitment to the arcane arts of defense and moving off-ball would have made him a completely different dude in a context where everyone was expected to make their own offense, some shit that was happening as late as 2010. But here, in Oakland, playing with power forwards playing center who operate like point guards and a team whose entire ethos is grown from moving off ball, Klay is an honest to god Hall of Farmer. It’s been the damndest thing.