For eight seasons, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson grew together, rising from young guards filled with untold potential to become the greatest shooting backcourt of all time. They brought the Warriors with them, dragging the NBA's punching bag franchise to heights even owner Joe Lacob might not have dreamed possible.
The accolades piled up. Then came the five NBA Finals appearances and three titles. All the while, Curry and Thompson pushed each other to keep getting better, to become better shooters, better defenders, better champions. That motivation came not from wanting to best the other but from not wanting to let the other down. Wanting to be prepared to step up when their Splash Brother needed a lift, needed their best.
Dynamic duos have long dominated the NBA, from Bob Cousy and Bill Russell to Magic and Kareem, Michael and Scottie, and Shaq and Kobe. All champions. Hall of Famers. Legends.
But none of those compare to the bond and partnership Curry and Thompson have crafted.
For those eight seasons, and especially starting in the 2012-13 season, Curry and Thompson were fire and ice, pairing seamlessly to create a basketball force that was nearly impossible to keep from exploding. Stopping it? No chance.
In one spot, Curry, the greatest shooter to ever live and one of the top 10 best players in NBA history. In the other, Thompson, the definition of a human microwave who once scored 60 points on 11 dribbles and very well could be the second greatest shooter in history. The two conducted basketball symphonies together, dazzling crowds both home and away with ethereal long-distance displays.
Whatever they did. They did it together, along with Draymond Green.
Then, it was gone. Thompson tore his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and then tore his right Achilles in November of 2020, right before he was slated to return.
For two-and-a-half years, 941 days, the Splash Brothers couldn't share the court.
Thompson fought through two grueling rehabs while Curry offered any support he could. On the court, Curry missed most of the 2019-20 season with a broken hand and then had to carry the entire offensive load for the 2020-21 Warriors, leading Golden State to the play-in tournament before falling one game short of the playoffs while Thompson watched from the bench unable to help.
Circumstances outside their control forced Curry and Thompson to travel different paths, with Thompson pushing to return to the Warriors' backcourt as Curry tried his best to steady the ship as the dynasty recalibrated and awaited Thompson's return.
That moment finally came Sunday night when Thompson scored 17 points in his return to the Warriors, a 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Chase Center.
Sunday belonged to Thompson, but it was also a moment for Curry. One that gave him back his partner and friend after 941 days.
"Shooting the basketball is what we do," Curry said Sunday discussing his relationship with Thompson. "The work that we put in since he got here, the level of inspiration we both have for each other, and the internal competition helped me get to that point throughout my career. It was amazing to honor him even though he wasn't there. To let him know I'm not the shooter I am if I don't get to see Klay every single day do what he does. He keeps you sharp, and you understand, like, if I want to shoot the ball the way I want to, there's another guy that can do it too."
Last month, Curry made sure to hang Thompson's jersey in the locker room at Madison Square Garden after breaking Ray Allen's all-time 3-point record. Thompson, who was back in the Bay getting in work with the Santa Cruz Warriors, wasn't on the road trip, but Curry wanted his presence there.
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Sunday night was one Thompson will never forget. It was that night he got to return to the place that brings him peace, where he has cemented himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history, and a night he got to rejoin Curry in the Warriors' backcourt. Not as his sidekick but as his co-star.
"He has been an incredible role model for me," Thompson said Sunday. "An even better leader. We've had such a great history together as far as playing for championships or USA Team, or just growing our friendship, and it felt natural again. Steph is one of the best to ever play, and it's just an honor to be his two guard."
As for missing Curry's night in New York, Thompson was there, even if his physical presence was 3,000 miles away.
"Steph knows how hard I work, and when he was doing that, I was supporting from Santa Cruz," Thompson said. "I was there in spirit. He knows that. He knows I had things to do. Although it was tough having to watch, I knew I had to get right so I could be prepared to help this team win a 'chip."
Championship duos in the NBA are constantly rising and falling. They succeed, win and then die, with any number of afflictions causing them to fracture or dissolve.
But Curry and Thompson are special, unique. They are bonded not out of necessity but out of choice. Linked because they want to do it together. Push each other, pick each other up. Thrive, fail, rise and win together.
No ego. No jealousy. No anger.
Two selfless superstars who wouldn't want to do it without the other. Two Splash Brothers who, after 941 days, no longer have to.