Earlier this week, my friend Sebastian and I were on a walk in the woods. He’s a huge NBA fan, so we talked a little hoops. I follow college ball more than the pros, but Seb reminded me how fun it is to watch the superstars. This includes the Golden State Warriors, with their top-notch backcourt: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (the “Splash Brothers”). Last night, Thompson lived up to the name in perfect form, splashing down shot after shot in a record-setting third quarter. He scored 37 points (breaking the 33-pt record jointly held by George “Iceman” Gervin and Carmelo Anthony). And he did it without missing a shot: 13 attempts, 13 makes (including 9 3-pointers), + 2 free throws. It was an absolute flurry, with all 37 points coming in less than 10 minutes.
Take a look.
Last year, Thompson spoke to Jared Zwerling about how he has developed his skills; they arrived at twelve shooting keys. I want to highlight two habits that Thompson embraces that are central to getting better and becoming more consistent:
1. Start with the same pregame routine.
First, I need to make five shots from five different spots in the mid-range area. Then, I need to make three spot-up three-pointers, three transition three-pointers and one three from five spots around the arc. After that, I do a couple of pin-downs from each side, and then I’ve got to make three in a row from each baseline corner. I start at the top and run to the corner. I’ve got to make six total.
I don’t adjust my routine to the opponent. I try to make the defense adjust to me, rather than adjust to them.
Thompson has worked on getting his routine down to 15-20 minutes. His routine is key to his getting into a “flow state” where he is catching and shooting quickly, taking the thinking out of the process. In last night’s post-game interview, Thompson said “I was just really focused. I was hitting some tough ones. I was in a great flow.” No kidding.
2. Seek opportunities to learn from others.
I’m still open to new ideas. This Team USA experience  has given me a chance to see what everyone does pregame. I saw Derrick Rose closing his eyes and controlling his breathing. He was visualizing the game. It’s been cool to see how he approaches the game and be on the floor with him.
I watch guys like Steph Curry, Reggie Miller and Kyle Korver. All of them are really good at lulling their guys to sleep and then sprinting off a pin-down.
Growing up, I watched Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton and Allan Houston, but there was always something special about Chris Mullin. He wasn’t athletic, but he knew how to get to his spot, and he never let the defense speed him up. He made the game look so simple.
He wasn’t flashy. He just had his compact, smooth jumper, and he was one of the smartest players in the game. To average 25 a game and be slow and not athletic is an unbelievable testament to his skill and his work ethic. When he was with Golden State, he helped me a lot. He told me to get my center of gravity lower to help me explode on my shot.
Dan Coyle writes about the benefits of observation and mimicry in talent development:
We instinctively want talent to be utterly original and one-of-a-kind. But the truth is, developing skill at mimicry opens a useful short-cut, because it allows you to test out proven techniques and add them to your repertoire. It also separates you from your ego, so you can make more reaches and take more risks.
That last sentence is key. Becoming separated from one’s ego is central to performing in the zone — free of the self-talk that can often undermine our efforts. Establish this in your pregame routine too and you will go a long way towards consistently reaching excellence.