Let’s pause for a moment in our modern conundrum of worrying about whether or not the Golden State Warriors will be able to threepeat this season. Step back for a moment and appreciate the historical greatness that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have achieved in their short time together. We are right in the thick of it now, but no doubt the Splash Brothers will be talked about for a long, long time
They are going to be well-covered by basketball historians, but we are entering that weird phase of their career where they are getting honored as greats while still actively playing in the league. Most of these accolades have been coming for a long time - remember when coach Mark Jackson caught flak for calling them the best shooting backcourt of all time?
Anyways, keep your eye on NBATV for replays, because this special was... special.
You won't want to miss this.— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 27, 2018
The Splash Bros. and Bad Boys sit down for a wide-ranging conversation - NEXT on NBA TV! pic.twitter.com/rFBEbTwSxM
Physicality and the modern NBA
One of the most prevalent knocks against Stephen Curry is that he would be physically bodied out of the old school NBA. I’m dubious that it would do all that much to slow him down, but you can tell Curry is aware of the chatter.
“Sometimes, I kinda want to go back and get thrown into that situation, see how I do,” Curry said. But Isaiah Thomas rightly took the conversation to it’s natural conclusion: “some of the bigs back then - Hall of Famers - wouldn’t be able to play today.”
The conversation went deeper too. Now, I hesitate to admit that I didn’t remember it like this, but apparently the Bad Boy Pistons were often criticised for playing like the Warriors - aka “a jump shooting team.” Without a traditional post player on offense (remember that Laimbeer was shooting threes before it was cool for big men to shoot them), the Pistons ran a lot of screens and pin-downs.
I look at the league now, and a lot of the small ball. That’s how we played. We were actually criticized a lot for playing the way you guys play.
As a kid, I missed a lot of that, but I sure did love watching the Pistons carve up the paint. My biggest takeaway from this segment was that the eras may not actually be as different as we’d all like to think. Or at least, the change has been more of a spectrum shift, rather than a wholesale flip of the league.
And the coolest part about this special was the shared connection that these four players, a generation apart, shared.
“It’s the ultimate respect when you’re doing something great and it’s different, and people are uncomfortable with it. ...For us, it was a jump-shooting team can’t win a championship.”
Ha! Suck it, Barkley!
The LeBron versus Jordan discussion
One of the cooler segments started with Isaiah Thomas talking about sitting on the phone with Joe Dumars for hours watching Jordan play another team. They’d laud his game while trying to scout him, but specifically drew the parallel with LeBron - these players are not “larger than life” per se, but the daunting combination of speed, skill, and size are impressive; even to other top tier players.
Klay said that LeBron is weird to play against because he’s “never seen a guy that big who moves so fast.” One of the funnier quips was a story Thompson told about running a fastbreak with LeBron trailing him - apparently Andre Iguodala was yelling “he’s comin’ you better dunk it!!”
Interestingly, Dumars gave a side nod to advanced stats in this same conversation. Talking about the parallels with his defense of Jordan and Thompson trying to slow down LeBron, Dumars said that it wasn’t really the point totals that he was worried about, but rather the scoring efficiency. It was kind of an aside in a broader conversation, but as someone who tries to keep up with the advanced stats, I thought it was pretty cool to see an old school guard like Joe Dumars talking about the importance of looking beyond the box score.
You really should watch this special if you get a chance, it will be an hour well spent.