By Will Baldwin
Throughout NBA history, there seems to always be one unifying factor that allows a player to go from good to great, ego. Ego in the context of the way we cover sports in 2018 is often seen as bad thing, like when LeBron James was crushed for (correctly) saying he was the best player in the world following the 2011 NBA Finals. Ego is not always a bad thing, it is often what allows players to build their confidence levels to reach new heights in their careers, the thing is though, ego is not the only way.
Meet James Worthy and Klay Thompson, Hall Of Fame third wheels who could care less about themselves because winning is the ultimate goal.
This type of mindset is so unique it has to be celebrated because although as previously stated ego is important, when great players do not have it, that is when you can find levels of success previously not seen as possible.
James Worthy should have had a major ego. He entered the NBA as the number one overall pick, coming off a season where he was the most important player on Dean Smith’s first championship at the University of North Carolina. But, Worthy quickly realized that playing on a team that featured the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in their primes, he would have to find a different way to help his team win.
Klay Thompson’s entrance to the NBA was different from Worthy’s. Thompson, the son of a former teammate of Worthy’s with the Lakers (Mychal Thompson), had to fight his way into the NBA from a smaller school (Washington State) and then, once he made it, found himself apart of a struggling Golden State Warriors franchise. What Thompson quickly realized both on his own and from the coaching of then Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, was that for him and Golden State to find success, he would have to be a unique player.
Now, just finishing his seventh season, it is clear Thompson understood what Worthy did before him, there is greatness in the little things.
Both players were and are great defenders with fantastic length for their positions and the ability to get a bucket for their team whenever needed, even in the games largest moments.
Worthy earned his nickname of ‘Big Game’ by scoring 36 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in the seventh and deciding game of the 1988 NBA Finals. Though it was not the first (or last) time Worthy would step up when his teammates needed him most, by getting the Finals MVP that season, it was a validation of his importance to the Showtime Lakers Dynasty.
Similarly, Klay Thompson is known by many Warriors fans as ‘Mr. Game Six’ for his phenomenal performances in both the 2016 and 2018 Western Conference finals, down 3-2, when his team needed him most. These clutch performances, along with many others and the consistency he brings on a night in and night out basis on both sides of the floor for this Warriors dynasty cannot be overlooked.
Though these two Hall of Famers will never be remembered as the best players on their respective teams and never were, their value and impact is something that should never, ever be forgotten in the laurels of NBA History. It is after all, amazing what can be accomplished when ego is sacrificed for winning.
If you do not believe me, just ask the two greatest ‘third-wheels’ in basketball history.