Jerry West and Gail Goodrich were the best backcourt of their era, two Hall of Famers who combined to score more than 50 points a game in 1971-72, and led those Lakers to a 33-game win streak and eventually the NBA title. Think of it this way: The guy who is now the NBA logo is the second best shooter in that backcourt.
Pat Riley looks at Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and sees a reflection of those legends. That’s what he told Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press on the eve of the Warriors looking to go 16-0 and set the record for fastest start in NBA history.
“They are the two most dynamic players in the backcourt, that I have ever seen, since Jerry West and Gail Goodrich,” Riley said. “Go back and check their numbers, 25 points apiece and Jerry leading the team in assists, Gail shooting close to 50 percent or whatever it was. Both of them could shoot it, could drive it, could pass it. That’s what you’re seeing here.”
It’s been more than 40 years, and Riley’s recollection of the numbers hasn’t faded. Goodrich and West combined to average 51.7 points per game in that 1971-72 season; Curry (32.7 in 15 games) and Thompson (16.6 in 14 games) are combining for 49.8 points per game this season.
You can see the parallels, it’s an interesting one.
That ’72 title was the only one for that era Lakers, a bit of a surprise considering the insane talent on that team — Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, even Riley himself — but you can thank the Bill Russell Celtics and the Willis Reed Knicks for keeping that number at one. Rings is the one place Curry and Thompson could ultimately pass The Logo and his teammates.
“They are in the beginning of something that can be dynastic,” Riley said. “They’re in the beginning stages of it and that’s the scary part, versus somebody that catches lightning in a bottle one time. They’re at the beginning because all of their key players, all of them, are young and they’re talented. The ones that aren’t have what I call youth-age, like Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston — those guys bring an element to the team is incredible.”
Keeping that team in a dynasty place in future years — when they have to pay Harrison Barnes and Curry more, and when Bogut, Iguodala and other’s contracts come up — will be the challenge. The salary cap ties the hands of successful teams.
But so long as they have a healthy Curry and Thompson backcourt, the Warriors are a threat to win it all.