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The moment could have prompted Stephen Curry to proclaim his greatness. Shortly after the Golden State Warriors star became the NBA career three-pointer, Curry diverted attention from himself and his strong marksmanship.
Once Curry arrived in the Warriors locker room after their win over the New York Knicks last month, he paid tribute to other elite shooters. Curry hung up the jerseys of the players he eclipsed at number 1 (Ray Allen) and number 2 (Reggie Miller). Curry also hung up Warriors guard Klay Thompson’s jersey after the two won three NBA championships together, becoming one of the best backcourts in NBA history.
“I’m not the shooter I am if I don’t see Klay doing what he does every day,” Curry said. “He keeps you on your toes and understands how to shoot the ball the way I want, there’s another guy who can do it too.”
If only Thompson could witness the moment.
Thompson was absent from that game in New York when Curry eclipsed Allen’s three-point record for one simple reason: He spent the past month practicing with the Warriors’ NBA G League team in Santa Cruz. That route represented Thompson’s final stages of rehabilitation after being sidelined for the past 2 1/2 years due to end-of-season injuries to his left knee (2019-20) and right Achilles tendon (2020-21).
“Steph knows how hard I work,” Thompson said. “When he did, I supported him from Santa Cruz. I took on our G League team and they got me ready. I was there in mind. He knows that. He knows I had things to do. So although It was hard to watch, I knew I had to do it right and prepare to help this team win a chip.”
Finally, Thompson helped the Warriors prepare for that moment. After being sidelined for the past 941 days, Thompson returned on Sunday for the Warriors’ win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Chase Center in a game with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting, a one-handed dunk and some rust in the game. only under 20 minutes.
Thompson hopes to make more progress when the Warriors (30-9) visit the Memphis Grizzlies (28-14) on Tuesday.8 ET, NBA TV). He’s looking to complement Curry against the talented young backcourt of the Grizzlies in Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. And of course, Thompson hopes to help the Warriors win an NBA title this season after spending the past two seasons in the Draft lottery (2019-20) and the Play-In Tournament (2020-21).
Curry and his teammates laughed recently that Thompson didn’t directly experience the Warriors’ rigors on court, as he spent most of that time in the trainer’s room. But during that long ordeal, the Warriors and Thompson definitely missed each other. And now that Curry and Thompson have been reunited, they felt they could restore their winning partnership.
“We have an incredibly talented group, and it’s very deep,” Curry said. “I don’t know what it will look like. But I know we have the ability and the opportunity to get there, and of course he’s a big part of that. It’s exciting that it all comes together.”
It wasn’t long before Curry and Thompson got together.
Shortly after the Warriors used their top picks to draft Curry (No. 7 in 2009) and Thompson (No. 11 in 2011), Golden State handed out point guard Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for two reasons. The Warriors wanted to get bigger and they did it by getting Andrew Bogut into the deal. They also wanted to give Curry and Thompson more opportunities to grow.
A year later, former Warriors coach Mark Jackson called Curry and Thompson “the greatest backcourt in the history of the game.” Jackson’s comments have stood the test of time ever since.
Curry and Thompson became known as the “Splash Brothers” because of the way they constantly drenched their opponents with elite shootings. Curry owns the NBA’s 3-point scoring record (3,016) in 13 NBA seasons and still stands. Thompson set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a game (14), a record previously held by Curry. Curry (twice) and Thompson (one) have also won the NBA three-point game on several All-Star weekends.
But when did Curry know that he and Thompson would produce something special together?
“It was a gradual confidence,” Curry said. “We don’t really step on each other’s toes. We complement each other. But that takes a while before you really believe it.”
Curry said that moment happened in 2014 when the Warriors challenged the LA Clippers to a seven-game first-round playoff series. Although former Clippers guard Chris Paul averaged 17.4 points and 9.0 assists per game on 42.3% shots in that series, Curry was impressed with the way Thompson challenged Paul defensively.
“That set the tone for what the next five-year run would look like,” Curry said. “He was a big part of that.”
Curry and Thompson helped each other in different ways.
They acted as decoys for each other, so at least one of them had an open view from the deep. One of them filled it from outside while the other couldn’t. And when both could, the defenses had to make a terrible decision to determine which player should take priority.
Curry made his 3-point shots with excellent ball handling as well as off-ball cutting. Thompson created his 3-point shots with efficient off-ball cutting and a quick release. And Thompson eased Curry’s workload by defending the opponent’s top scorer as well.
“I couldn’t imagine playing with another point guard because we have such great chemistry,” Thompson said. “We know each other’s favorite places and where we want the ball. I’m just grateful to share the backcourt with him because he’s such a selfless and great competitor and teammate.”
No wonder Curry honored Thompson after he officially became the NBA’s greatest 3-point shooter of all time.
“The basketball is what we do,” Curry said. “The work we’ve done since he got here, the level of inspiration we both have for each other, and the internal competition we’ve had – all of that has helped me get there throughout my career.”
Those fun times came to an abrupt halt when Thompson injured the ACL in his left knee against the Toronto Raptors in a decisive Game 6 loss of the 2019 NBA Finals. While Thompson was sidelined throughout the 2019-20 season, Curry played just five games after injuring his left hand just four games into the season. On the afternoon of the 2020 NBA Draft, Thompson tore his right Achilles tendon after taking a pull-up jumper in a pick-up game with other NBA players in LA
Although Curry finished among Kia MVP’s regular season candidates, the Warriors couldn’t make the playoffs without Thompson’s presence. While Thompson has spent the past 13 months rehabilitating from that injury, Curry occasionally comforted him on the sidelines watching the games.
When Thompson returned on Sunday, Curry showed his appreciation in other ways. Curry scheduled his pre-match warm-up around the same time as Thompson. Curry also ceded the last spot in the grid introduction to Thompson, earning him the most admiration from the fans.
“It was special. It created the love that I know he’s been waiting for,’ Curry said. “He’s been through so many highs and lows over the past 2 1/2 years. That was the moment when you can celebrate that journey and just go hooping.”
After Curry and Thompson were finally together for the first time in 18 months, the two hugged. Thompson then commented, “This is just the beginning.” That’s because he believes the Splash Brothers can end the Warriors championship drought.
“He’s been an incredible role model for me and an even better leader,” Thompson said of Curry. “It felt natural again. Steph is one of the best who has ever played. It’s an honor to be his two-guard.”
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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.