Little (Splash) Brother Syndrome

Splash Brothers

It’s hard to dodge any sort of news about Steph Curry. Even for those who are not really that excited about anything going on in the basketball world at all or ever, he’s still seemingly unavoidable. With Curry being the number one star player on the Golden State Warriors, last year’s NBA Champions, and this year’s record breaking team, it’s difficult to say that he doesn’t deserve the attention. Because he does. He was last year’s MVP, is the all-time leading three-point scorer in a season (with the second best record being held by him as well), and has the prettiest shot you will ever see to go along with his ridiculous dribbling skills. People arrive to his games an hour early just to see him warm up and show off. Steph Curry’s impact has been earned. With all that being said, there was a time where Steph Curry wasn’t stand-alone Steph Curry. There was a time when he was better known as just one of the splash brothers.

I used to refer to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as “the twins” instead of as “the splash brothers” because they truly are that similar. Even though Curry is a point guard and Thompson is a shooting guard, they play the same way. They have the same sort of energy and competitive edge. They both expect a lot out of themselves. They were both Golden State’s first round picks during their individual draft years. They have similar form when it comes to their step-back and how they shoot threes. They’re two of a kind. To put it in perspective, the season Steph Curry won MVP (2014-2015), he had broken the record for most three-point field goals of all time with 286 three-point shots achieved in a season (he went for 402 this season). This year, Klay Thompson came in third on that record board with 276 three-point shots. That’s only a difference of ten when compared to Steph Curry last year, also known as the year Curry started to drift away from being one and the same as Thompson.

Klay Thompson is the overshadowed little brother. Put him on a team like the Bucks or the Jazz, he would be the number one star player without a doubt. But on the Warriors, he’s not even considered second best anymore thanks to Draymond Green. Thompson is holding third best right now.

It would be easy to say that Thompson just isn’t as good as Curry or doesn’t have as much passion as Draymond Green, but that just isn’t the case. Draymond Green is known for being overly intense, so saying Klay Thompson isn’t as passionate about the game isn’t even something that can be defended. It’s like arguing that because someone is the loudest in the room, they are automatically right. It doesn’t make sense. The Steph Curry thing is a little bit more complicated though.

When you look at the stats of both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Curry comes out on top. He nudges out Thompson only by the slightest bit when it comes to field goal percentages, three-pointer percentages, and free throw percentages. The one thing Thompson has is more of a percentage when it comes to blocks. Thompson isn’t without skill though. He has the NBA record for most points scored in a single quarter. He’s legit. The real deal.

When you look at Klay Thompson’s stats of the games he has played without Curry, it’s a different story. Thompson makes more shots without Curry. He has more assists. And then the team works together just as consistently because he steps into that leadership role. Take for example the first game during this year’s playoffs where Steph Curry wasn’t playing. Thompson had 34 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Furthermore, when Thompson was on the court of that game, Golden State out-scored the Rockets by 16 points when they only ended up winning the game by 9 points. He was their game changer that night. Klay Thompson shines when Steph Curry isn’t on the court. The Warriors aren’t any better without Steph Curry, but it’s not like they seem to be a whole lot worse without him.

What it comes down to is this: persona, desire, and influence. These aspects are very important when it comes to whether you become the considered truly best in any sport. Talent can only do so much. Leadership can only do so much. That’s because being an athlete is not just a job; it’s a lifestyle. If you don’t live and breathe your sport, you won’t have a chance because there is someone with just as much natural skill as you waiting in the corner. There is a reason why Lebron James is who he is and it’s not just because he is one of the best basketball players in history. For example, Scotty Pippin is one of the best basketball players in history too, but if you ask a kid today who they know of: Michael Jordan or Scotty Pippin, their answer will be Michael Jordan nine times out of ten. And the one kid who does say he knows Scotty Pippin either has Chicago sports fans for parents and/or will also know who Michael Jordan is as well.

Lebron James is where he is at in his career not just because of his talent and work ethic, but because of the crown he has put on his head as the self-proclaimed king of basketball. I have seen videos of kids crying tears of joy because someone gave them a pair of Lebron James’ Nike shoes. Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs is a former MVP, has won more championships than James, is beloved by so many, and is one of the best in the league still, even though he’s getting up there in age… But, have you heard of him having a shoe? Would you say that Tim Duncan is better than Lebron James? A lot of us who live and die for sports would have a never-ending debate over it, but there are also a whole lot of people who aren’t like that. Ask them who they think is better. Ask an ESPN host which player brings in more viewers.

Steph Curry has a shoe… Klay Thompson doesn’t. See what I’m getting at here? If Steph Curry wasn’t in the picture, who would Klay Thompson then be as a player? Curry has a reputation of having a fragile body. There is always the chance we could see a Klay Thompson without Steph Curry season one of these years. You never know.

In order to be the best, you have to want to be the best. In order to be the best, you have to realize that it’s about more than just the game. I love Klay Thompson and I think even with all the attention he has, he is still completely underrated. But, Klay Thompson doesn’t seem to want to be the greatest. Don’t get me wrong. I think he would like it if he ended up being at the top, but it’s not a necessary thing for him. He seems to just want to win, make an impact, and work hard in order to achieve success for his team. I compare Klay Thompson’s approach to the approach of Kawhi Leonard, small forward for the San Antonio Spurs and currently ranked as the best defensive player this year, as well as last year. Leonard is quiet, focused, and never wants to be noticed once off of the court. His cause is not based on being known as one of the greats. Instead, he is focused on doing his best and winning with his team. And it’s working, both the winning part and the going unnoticed part. Even though he is known as being one of the strongest players in the league right now, he didn’t make the all-star game last year and barely got a spot in it this year. He’s sometimes just forgotten about. And so is Klay Thompson.

The thing Steph Curry has that Klay Thompson doesn’t is that Steph Curry doesn’t seem to ever stop thinking about how he can be better than everyone else. That’s literally all it is. Because the way Thompson plays when Curry is gone shows that he could have been the one to have become the star brother.

The splash brothers still live on. Well, sort of. It’s obvious that there has been some distance the past couple of years. Nevertheless, if you watch a Golden State home game, you’ll be bound to see a sign or a jersey in the stands referencing their historic brotherhood. A thing to also remember is that Klay Thompson didn’t get any worse. Something else changed… Or at least someone else’s drive did.

And just for the record, Klay Thompson beat Steph Curry during the three-point contest at the all-star weekend in Toronto this year even though Steph Curry beat out Klay Thompson the year before. Not all things are as straightforward as it might seem. Sometimes the little brother has some star power too. Just ask Seth Curry, the real and potentially forgotten little brother of Steph Curry, who has a point guard position on the Sacramento Kings right now and also played for Duke. Now there’s someone who is truly in Steph Curry’s shadow. At least Thompson has a flourishing career to depend on, unlike Seth Curry who is struggling to stay afloat in the NBA. Alas, such is another story for another time.

Do not for one second think that Klay Thompson is far below when put next to Steph Curry. Because he’s not. I still see them as twins. That’s the thing about twins though. They’re not clones of each other. They are similar, but different. Individuals, but grown from the same one. They are two teammates that not only love the game, but who love each other. They are competitive brothers for life.

Photo Credit – Rocky Widner/Getty Images

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