Programming note: Watch the re-air of Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter against the Kings from 2015 tonight at 8 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.
These days, Klay Thompson holds a unique place in NBA lore.
A walking bucket, he can shoot from all over the floor, making quick, double-digit outbursts commonplace during the Warriors’ championship run. Along the way, he has become one of the best shooters in league history.
But each great present is prompted by a start when a player begins to make good on his promise.
Thompson’s present-day reputation started a little over five years ago against the Sacramento Kings, when he scored 37 of his 52 points in the third quarter. Those 37 points broke the record for points in a quarter, previously held by George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony (33).
For a refresher, catch Thompson’s outburst Friday evening at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area, as voted on by Warriors fans.
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 27, 2020
Thompson’s outburst came during a different time in Golden State’s aura. Months prior, they poached Steve Kerr — who had never coached before — out of the broadcaster’s booth after firing Mark Jackson. Draymond Green, now a franchise pillar, earned a starting role only after forward David Lee went down with an injury.
Before the 2014-15 season, NBC Sports’ ProBasketballTalk predicted Golden State would win just 46 games.
But perhaps the biggest chip settled on Thompson’s shoulder. Entering his fourth season, he had made strides in his career, averaging 16 points per game, including a solid 41 percent from 3-point range. He helped the Warriors reach the playoffs in two of his first three seasons.
But the Warriors’ eyes were on their first title in 40 years, and Thompson’s place in the said mission was murky.
During the summer of 2014, the Warriors shopped his services in a potential trade for Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love. For the Warriors, Love provided something Thompson would never be: A double-double post threat who could produce 20 points and 10 rebounds on an off night.
More importantly, despite never making the postseason as a franchise pillar, Love would bring an established name to a new ownership group looking to make a splash. However, any thoughts of a deal got nixed when team consultant Jerry West reportedly threatened to quit if Golden State went through the plan.
Thompson showed why West coveted his talent minutes into the third quarter. On his first touch, he dribbled into the Kings’ defense and made a forced fadeaway jumper. One minute later, he stole a pass, ran straight to the top of the key and drained a trey.
Midway through the quarter, Golden State’s motion offense morphed into “get Klay the ball, set a brush screen and get the hell out of the way.” Even when Thompson tried to initiate offense, he bombed a 3-pointer while telling Green to set a screen. By the end of the quarter, he’d made all 13 of his shots, including all nine of his 3-pointers.
“That was crazy. I don’t know what happened. … I’ve never shot like that,” Thompson said in his postgame interview on the floor.
“You don’t get that hot in (NBA) 2K,” Green said following the game.
Thompson had outbursts before that evening, but none like that. He set a state record for 3-pointers in high school, hitting seven treys in the state title game to help Santa Margarita High School beat Sacramento High School.
Of course, he also would have countless outbursts in the years to follow, including his legendary 41-point Game 6 performance in the 2016 Western Conference finals, saving the Warriors from elimination.
But that night at Oracle Arena against the Kings birthed Thompson’s reputation as a bonafide flamethrower,