‘Game 6 Klay’ has always been more about vibes than stats


Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors’ self-effacing superstar and second Splash Brother, is due for a big one Friday. At least, that’s what many would have you believe entering this upcoming matchup between the Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.

Since 2016, Thompson has been known as “Game 6 Klay,” a heroic figure who bursts out of the proverbial phone booth whenever a Golden State playoff series is at 3-2 to secure a win for the Dubs. 

The origin story is more Saitama’s workout routine in “One Punch Man” than Superman getting his powers from the sun and dealing with lower gravity on Earth. Following the greatest regular season in NBA history, the Warriors were on the brink, down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. After winning Game 5, the Warriors were down late against the Thunder in Game 6 — until Thompson showed up with a flurry of late baskets on the way to a 41-point performance. The Warriors snatched the victory and went on to win the series in seven games.

Since then, Thompson has shown up repeatedly in important Game 6s. In 2018, he tied up the Western Conference finals series against the Houston Rockets with a 35-point outing, and last season, he clinched the semifinals series against the Memphis Grizzlies with a 30-bomb.

But aside from some high-profile performances, there’s not a whole lot of data to back up the idea of “Game 6 Klay.” To be clear, the stats are very good: In the eight Game 6s since he got the nickname, Thompson is averaging 26.1 points, 5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s also averaging a jaw-dropping 51.7% shooting from three. But even with that, it’s hard to make the case that he’s the best Game 6 performer of all time (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Jerry West have better arguments), the best Game 6 performer since his famous 2016 performance (Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo have him beat, and Jayson Tatum is tied in points), or even the best Game 6 performer on his own team. Steph Curry has averaged 28.9 points per game in Game 6s since 2016; as for the rest of the guys, Jordan is at 31.3 points per game in Game 6s, Bryant is at 30.0, James is at 29.3, West is at 30.5, Leonard is at 29.0, and Antetokounmpo is at 35.0.

Compare that with other legendary postseason performers. Retired hockey winger Justin Williams, who earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7,” holds a postseason record for most points (a combination of total points and assists) in Game 7s and is tied for most goals in those series-defining games. There’s also Hall of Famer Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson, whose postseason stat line of a .278 batting average with 18 home runs, 48 RBI and 41 runs makes him one of the most productive postseason players in baseball history. We can even go back to an NBA great in Jordan, who has played the same number of Game 6s in his career as Thompson has so far; in those 13 games, Thompson has scored a respectable 260 points. His Airness scored 407.

So why does Klay get the nickname? It might be because, like everything else about Thompson, the moniker is more about his ethos than it is about anything tangible. Those sixth games had significant meaning: The one against the Thunder helped a 73-9 Warriors team complete a 3-1 series comeback that was once considered a death knell; the one against the Rockets put the Dubs over the top against the biggest threat the dynasty ever faced in the West. Last year’s 30-point performance, while series-clinching, demonstrated that Thompson was still capable of big-time games in the wake of the two major injuries he suffered.

What has always separated Thompson from other likable players in the league is that he’s just a really cool guy with eccentric habits and hobbies who just also happens to be a deeply talented basketball player. Ultimately, with Klay, it’s more about the vibes. Game 6 Klay won’t show up to Friday’s matchup just because the timing in the series is right. Game 6 Klay will show up if his appearance means something. In this case, it would mean shutting down a highly touted young team that briefly looked like it had the Warriors’ dynasty dead and buried for good. What more perfect time for him to emerge than to officially turn that narrative on its head?


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