The texts started lighting up George Gervin's phone last Friday night, a buzzing stream of exclamations and wonderment. Some kid had just broken an unbreakable scoring record. A nearly four-decade-old record. Gervin's record.
Thirty-seven points in one quarter! That's what Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors' young shooting ace, had just done, the texts said. Thirty-seven points. Four more than Gervin scored in a quarter back in 1978.
The 62-year-old Gervin had two immediate reactions when he learned of Thompson's incredible feat.
First: "I said, 'Wowwwww, that's pretty impressive.'"
Then: "But I'd like to see him try to get 33 or 37 in a quarter when there wasn't no three-point line."
Within seconds, Gervin's friendly baritone gives way to a hearty, mischievous chuckle. The former high flyer and Hall of Famer, who still answers to the nickname Iceman, is speaking from pride, not bitterness, with an eye toward historical accuracy.
When Gervin set the NBA record for points in a quarter—in the second quarter of a loss to the New Orleans Jazz, on April 9, 1978—there was no three-point arc. Its adoption was still a year away. Gervin accumulated his 33 points the old-fashioned way: on mid-range jump shots, slashes to the rim and free throws. If he scored three points on a play, it came with the help of a shooting foul—the "and-1."
The precise number of field goals and free throws Gervin made in that quarter is unclear. Neither the NBA's statistics database nor Basketball-Reference.com has the breakdown.
We do know how Thompson reached 37: by making all 13 of his field goals, including all nine of his three-pointers, along with two free throws, in the third quarter of a Warriors victory over the Sacramento Kings.
It was, by any measure, an electrifying, unfathomable performance, worthy of praise and a place in the history books. Just not the same history books that Gervin occupies, at least according to Gervin.
"I don't feel—and it's funny, everybody laughs—I don't feel he broke my record," Gervin told Bleacher Report in a phone interview. "I feel he set a new record. He set a new record for the new NBA."
He paused again to break into another contagious chuckle.
"Think about it, man," Gervin said. "That's like if we're going to have a race, and you start on the 50-yard line and I start on the 1-yard line and we're doing a 100-yard race. It's not even."
"I'm saying, like, wait a minute, y'all. Y'all are making it seem like what I did was just regular," he said, laughing again. "I ain't mad at the kid doing what he did. But what I'm saying is, let's let the fans know what really happened, and let them be the judge of it."
The details matter. When Gervin set the mark, he broke a hallowed record held by another basketball legend: Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 31 points in a quarter during his 100-point game on March 2, 1962.
"To me, the greatest guy that dominated that game was Wilt Chamberlain," Gervin said. "To break a Wilt Chamberlain record, man, come on man."
And Gervin did so under the same rules that Chamberlain played under. Though, technically, someone else beat Gervin to the punch.
Hours before Gervin played that night in 1978, Denver's David Thompson (no relation to Klay) put up a 32-point quarter, en route to a 73-point game. And that's where this story really begins.
It was the final day of the regular season, and Gervin and Thompson were locked in a historically tight race for the scoring title. Thompson's scoring explosion pushed him into the lead and left Gervin with a challenge: If he wanted the crown, he needed 58 points that night.
Gervin went out and, as he recalls, promptly missed his first six shots.
"Because I mean, you know, you need !" he said. "That was a little pressure on me."
Gervin settled down and scored 20 points in the rest of the quarter, then racked up his record 33 points in the second, giving him 53 at halftime. He reached 59 in the third but decided to keep going—"just in case they miscalculated," he said.
He finished with 63 points in 33 minutes.
"I bet you that's a record," Gervin said.
Recalling the feeling, Gervin said, "You ever heard of that cartoon called Casper the Friendly Ghost? I was going through guys. I was in a zone, man, that I don't remember. I bet you [Klay Thompson] can't even remember what he did. Everybody can't get into that zone. So when you talk about zones, man, there's only special guys that's been there. So he's actually been where I've been."
Gervin also earned his scoring title that night, lending added meaning to his other feats. Even then, he never felt secure that the record would stand.
"You ain't going to just sit on top of a mountain, man, and think ain't nobody else going to climb up there, too, if you got up there," Gervin said. "We got great basketball players. I ain't the only one. I ain't the greatest scorer that ever lived. But I'm one of them."
Only one player since 1978 had truly threatened Gervin's mark: In 2008, Carmelo Anthony, then with Denver, posted a 33-point quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As Gervin will tell you, Anthony needed four three-pointers to reach that total.
As for Klay Thompson's feat, Gervin said, "You can't do anything but compliment that kid, man." He added, "That's very impressive, for accuracy and shooting. But that's for another record."
"If you give a guy an advantage to break my record, it ain't on the same playing level," Gervin said. "So I'm saying, I ain't going away that easy, by saying 'Hey, he broke my record.' Now, I don't care what nobody say. I'm standing up for something that I'm real proud of, man...In the system that I played, my record will never be broken."
"I'm the one in the Guinness book," Gervin said. "So if they put somebody else in the Guinness book for most points in a quarter, I'd like to see an asterisk by it."
And now the Iceman is chuckling again.
"You can tell I have fun with it, man."
Around The League
• The Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets just lost their starting point guards, but it's the Atlanta Hawks who may be wincing the hardest. Here's why: The Hawks have the right to swap first-round picks with the Brooklyn Nets in June. The Pistons and Hornets are the greatest threats to push the Nets out of the playoff field—and into the draft lottery. So the Hawks have every reason to be rooting for a Nets collapse, and for any team to overtake them in the standings.
Through Tuesday, Brooklyn had slipped to ninth place in the East—a half-game behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot, and a game-and-a-half ahead of Boston. But the Hornets just lost Kemba Walker to knee surgery, while the Pistons lost Brandon Jennings to a ruptured Achilles tendon. Jennings' season is over; Walker's might be. All of that is good news for the Nets, who still have a chance to make the playoffs and save a little face.
The pick, which is unprotected, will go to Atlanta regardless of where it lands, but it's much less painful to surrender the 15th pick than a lottery pick that might turn into a top-three selection, however low the odds are. Atlanta obtained the right to swap 2015 picks as part of the trade that sent Joe Johnson to Brooklyn. The Nets will get the Hawks' pick, which as of now would be 29th. And the Hawks have a chance to be the rare team that wins a conference title and a lottery pick in the same year.
• The All-Star reserves, as selected by NBA coaches, will be announced Thursday night (ballots were due Tuesday). Here's one man's view of who should make it, based on the same guidelines the coaches followed: two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards, regardless of position. I'm also picking a replacement for the injured Kobe Bryant (a choice that will be made in the real world by Commissioner Adam Silver).
East guards: Jimmy Butler, Chicago; Jeff Teague, Atlanta
East wild cards: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando; Dwyane Wade, Miami
West wild cards: Klay Thompson, Golden State; Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
West injury replacement: Damian Lillard, Portland
Everyone has their own standards for what constitutes an All-Star, and what factors to consider when making the tough calls. Here are some of mine, along with some other thoughts:
— Traditional stats (scoring average, etc.) matter, but efficiency matters, too. So I left out Kevin Love, whose solid scoring and rebounding averages are offset by a substandard field-goal percentage.
— Defense matters, but offense matters more. I know that's anathema to some analysts, but hey, it's an All-Star Game; scoring is the entire point of the exercise. That said, Butler gets the nod over Cleveland's Kyrie Irving because Butler has not only become a great scorer, averaging 20.1 points per game, but he's also a great defender, a claim Irving cannot make.
— Team success matters, but mostly for tiebreaking purposes. All-Star is an individual honor, for individual excellence. This isn't the MVP race, where team success is intrinsic to the award. But Atlanta's dominance and team balance justifies heavier consideration for Horford and Millsap.
— Injuries matter. So I left off Kevin Durant (24 games missed) and Kawhi Leonard (18 games), though they are two of the best at their position.
— Toughest cuts in the East: Love and Irving. In this case, the Cavaliers' record was absolutely a factor, because the team's struggles have been due in part to their stars struggling to mesh with one another.
A Western Conference scout assesses Austin Rivers, who was acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 15 in a three-team deal in which the Clippers gave up Reggie Bullock, Chris Douglas-Roberts and a second-round pick.
"He is slow-footed for his position, so he has trouble staying in front of other guards. He has good anticipation. He knows how to play basketball. So he can get some steals here and there playing off the ball. But on the ball, he has trouble staying in front of guys, and he gets in foul trouble.
"His shot from three is streaky at best. When he gets pressured as a playmaker, he turns into a head-down driver, looking to score. I just thought he was overhyped coming out of college...In college, he wasn't much different. He was a scorer who took a lot of bad shots and forced plays. And he was able to get by with that in college, because he was playing against similar athletes—not the type of guys he has to go against in the NBA.
"The best case? That he would quit trying to be a scorer and just run a team when he plays and be more of an Andre Miller instead of trying to score all the time...Or he could improve his three-point shot and be Jason Kidd, who improved his three-point shot over time. He's got to come up with some distinguishable trait."
Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.