Klay Thompson's NBA 3-Point Record Is Absurd on So Many Levels

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 30, 2018

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson celebrates after scoring a three pointer against the Chicago Bulls during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

Splash times 14. 

That's the only way to describe Klay Thompson's record-setting night against the Chicago Bulls, during which he rained in a staggering 14 three-pointers in the 149-124 blowout victory (which wasn't nearly as close as that lopsided margin still makes it sound). Had the game been more competitive, he might've gone for even more than those treys and 52 total points, since he exited with plenty of time remaining in the third quarter. Why bother running up the score any further with the record already in hand? 

Sure, you can pick some nits here. You shouldn't, but you can. 

For the sake of covering all sides of the argument: Thompson's flame-throwing came against a nonexistent defense, and the Golden State Warriors unashamedly forced him the rock throughout the third quarter in an attempt to push him past Stephen Curry's prior record (13). He took more attempts from beyond the arc than anyone ever has (24 to JR Smith's 22 in 2014). 

No wonder he had "mixed emotions" after the game, which he elaborated upon during the NBATV broadcast: "I missed, like, three threes I didn't want to miss. I mean, I got a couple stitches [for a cut on his head]. I'm a little tired, but most importantly I'm grateful and my adrenaline's pumping."

Even with those misses, it was an absurd sight for fans of competitive basketball. He still made 14 treys. Fourteen. Against an NBA team. That's a one before a four with no decimal point separating the two. It's also a number we've never seen in the three-point column of any box score in the league archives.

House of Highlights @HoHighlights

Klay Thompson set a new NBA record with 14 made 3-pointers. He finished with 52 points in just 27 minutes of play. 🔥 https://t.co/S6emTN5qYA

Thompson has caught fire before. He's one of the more flammable shooters we've ever witnessed, capable of brushing aside a slump like it's nothing (see: 5-of-36 from downtown to start the season before this explosion). As he said in plain-and-simple fashion, "I knew I was due for a big night eventually."

But this isn't just a "big night."

It's up there with his 37-point quarter and 41-spot in the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's an unforgettable game that could only be produced by an all-time shooter in a lineup featuring other historic talents, all of whom draw enough defensive attention to give him the necessary space for rise-and-fire attempts. 

Even in this era of three-point dominance, that tally verges on unfathomable. We're not exactly new to the fire-away era of NBA basketball, but no one had ever gotten to this mark. 

Despite the league setting new records every year for total triples attempted, despite the aptly nicknamed Splash Brothers running roughshod on so many opponents, and despite every offense featuring the long ball so prominently, this always felt a bit like the four-minute mile. Someone was probably going to get there, and we knew the basketball version of Roger Bannister was probably going to play for the Dubs. But it still seemed too unrealistic to actually predict. 

After all, just take a gander at the all-time leaderboard for single-game makes at the turn of the millennium: 

  1. Dennis Scott in 1996: 11
  2. Joe Dumars in 1994: 10
  3. George McCloud in 1995: 10
  4. Brian Shaw in 1993: 10
  5. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1995: 9
  6. Michael Adams in 1991: 9
  7. Nick Anderson in 1996: 9
  8. Dana Barros in 1995: 9
  9. Dee Brown in 1999: 9
  10. Rex Champman in 1996: 9

(Reminder: The NBA toyed with a shortened arc in the mid-'90s, which boosted many players' numbers.)

For some perspective, this was the fifth game of Thompson's career in which he drilled double-digit threes. And even a few years ago, a regular-old game with 10 triples was something worth celebrating. Prior to the dynastic Warriors' first title-winning season in 2014-15, this is how the leaderboard had evolved: 

  1. Kobe Bryant in 2003: 12
  2. Donyell Marshall in 2005: 12
  3. Stephen Curry in 2013: 11
  4. Dennis Scott in 1996: 11
  5. JR Smith in 2009: 11
  6. Deron Williams in 2013: 11
  7. Ray Allen in 2002: 10
  8. Trevor Ariza in 2014: 10
  9. Mario Chalmers in 2013: 10
  10. Terrence Ross in 2014: 10

Another 16 individual performances reached double figures. The frequency of that occurrence had risen, even if no one had yet pushed past a dozen. 

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Then came these Warriors, as we fast forward to the present and limit the parameters of our leaderboard to feature only Golden State snipers: 

  1. Klay Thompson in 2018: 14
  2. Stephen Curry in 2016: 13
  3. Stephen Curry in 2016: 12
  4. Stephen Curry in 2016: 11
  5. Stephen Curry in 2013: 11
  6. Stephen Curry in 2017: 11
  7. Stephen Curry in 2018: 11
  8. Klay Thompson in 2015: 11
  9. Klay Thompson in 2016: 11

We can stop there, with an even nine Dubs' showings that would've tied or surpassed the pre-2000 record. That's without Kevin Durant getting involved, though it sure feels like he's capable of assuming the hot-hand torch and throwing up a dozen treys of his own at any given time. 

The two-time defending champions have changed the conversation. 

Thanks to Thompson's historic efforts, 14 triples is now a reality rather than an impossibility, and we can shift any and all barstool debates to focus on which man will become the first to hit 15 during a single outing. Considering all five of Curry's assists came on Thompson jumpers during the Monday night performance, he may well have been setting the stage for a record-breaking performance of his own later in 2018-19. 

After all, chances are good we know which team will feature the next record-setter as the long-distance bar continues to move into incomprehensible territory. 


Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats accurate heading into games on Wednesday and courtesy of Basketball Reference, NBA.com, PBPStats.com, NBA Math or ESPN.com.