Today marks the 7 year anniversary of Klay Thompson’s legendary 37-point quarter. But while millions of fans, including me, have rewatched the tape a gazillion times, GSW teammate Leonardo Barbosa reveals there was much more going on behind the scenes. That action took place between Draymond Green and first-year coach Steve Kerr.
Leonardo Barbosa reflection on the baby-faced Warriors
Before the Warriors had even competed in an NBA Finals, Golden State’s only claim to fame was having the Splash Bros. Thought of as two heat check shooters at worst or unorthodox pioneers at best. By how their history continues to transpire, I think I know which side of the fence Steph and Klay were on.
After rehashing the past with Sarah Kustok on the podcast NBA Flashback, Babosa went deep on Klay’s greatest regular-season game ever. The game where NBA intellectuals could no longer doubt what the Warriors possessed.
Barbosa, being an NBA veteran at the time, was mostly known for his bench role on some great Nash-led Pheonix teams. Dropping 18 points a night for a contender should have earned him more respect than he got but never asked for. That’s why it’s so meaningful that he would call the now juggernaut Warriors overlooked. Claiming, “We knew we were a good team, but we knew also that no one respected us.”
That faithful night
After going on a 20-0 run in the first quarter, Sacramento - led by a mean-mugging Demarcus Cousins - mounted a massive comeback in the second to end it 56-51 Warriors way. To no one’s surprise, the fiery Steve Kerr let the squad have it. That’s when Klay started letting it fly.
Shot after shot, Klay’s ball didn’t touch anything but net. But the heat checks only really got crazy after Klay’s third three, a 28 footer that almost blew the roof of the Oracle Arena. Steph asserted post-game that “the third three he made where he was calling for a screen from like 28, 30 feet out and just pulled up and made it… after that, it was just give him the ball any way we could and abandon any playsets.”
Barbosa maintained that “even Steph, he stopped shooting to pass to Klay,” which in a sense was a good thing. Barbosa told Kustok that their selfless playing style “made our basketball really special.”
He continued, “many players that I played against wanted to come to the Golden State Warriors to play that beautiful basketball that we were playing… We had players that could have been selfish because we had so many weapons, so many guns - but we took that role.”
Draymond was apparently at the lead of this movement to abandon the sets and find Klay. As Barbosa entails, “Draymond was doing pretty much everything… he was doing the rebounding, the guarding, he was calling the plays. That’s what made Steve really mad because Steve used to call the plays on the side, and Green would call the plays to get Klay the ball.”
How mad can you be when your star player drops a league record points in a quarter as your team runs in the locker room like they celebrated a championship? Barbosa was so overcome with emotions, and he didn’t even play.
Steve Kerr’s comments after the game said everything about his position on Klay’s moment. Postgame, he exclaimed that “I was one of the luckiest NBA players ever to play with Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and some of the greatest players ever. As many of the spectacular things that Michael Jordan did, he never did that.”
He would continue with a legendary comment.
“It was reminiscent of Michael because its sort of other worldy. Thats what made Michael special. He would do some things that you just thought that’s impossible like human beings can’t do that. And not many people can achieve that level of play".
Steve Kerr, NBA.com
Luckily Klay was able to hear the comment and respond, contending that “to be in the same breath as Michael Jordan is crazy. The greatest player to ever play my position arguably in the game. For Steve to say something like that gives me a lot of confidence and is really humbling.”
Can Klay return to this level again?
Kerr stopped being angry because he was mesmerized by the most fabulous heat check quarter in NBA history. I can’t blame him - so was everyone else. But the Klay Thompson who returned after a 941 day sabbatical from rehab, has shown some promise. At nearly 15 points a game with a 30% three-point clip is by no means the Klay of old. But it is something. Time will only tell.