Former Laker Mychal Thompson recently pined for the days of Corey Maggette-caliber arms in the league. But was he really just calling out his son?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
This weekend on the internet, Mychal Thompson, two time NBA Champion, Showtime-era star forward on the Lakers, current broadcaster, father of Klay and Trayce, took to Twitter to lament the status of arm sculpture in the modern NBA:
A lot of ex-athletes like to let out a lusty “IN MY DAY” from time to time. Most of them are bullshit, but this one, lamenting the guns that seem to have been banned from the game…this one is probably true. Take a long, hard look at some of the cannons these ragtag pirate ship-dudes think they’re getting away with:
15 years in the NBA, a Hall of Fame type career, and yet, Carmelo Anthony has committed, WHOLE HOG, to a life as a rounded arm man, opting out of definition altogether for a life led hiding behind arm sleeves, compression shirts, and even, I dare say, tattoos. Certainly, Melo is a man of skill and strength, but his arm game craft is neglected, at best.
Kevin Durant, famously, cannot seem to bench more than 185 pounds. It has not mattered in his NBA career, certainly it matters in his arms as a manifest work in and of themselves.
Compared to the beautiful dadflab guns he was sporting mid-decade, Marc Gasol is now rocking some shapely, crafted arm cannons. But even in this manifestation, we see the total lack of regard for this shit in the modern NBA. Where once, the uniform, a tank top, was seen as a frame for the display of PEAK PERFORMANCE we have now shifted into a more utilitarian era, a time when lifting for athletic excellence is seen as a means to a competitive end…
...instead of a never-ending struggle to make one’s body into the ultimate fitness machine. See, here, Gasol’s New Wave iteration, Nikola Jokic, whose arms are so mediocre, so purely functional, that you have to think about their lack of striving to even see how blasé, and unfussed over they really are.
But, and it pains me to say this, there truly is no NBA star who lives in the land of post-shapes more than Mychael’s son, Klay Thompson himself. Look at these things, draped by his side, mid game. These are not the arms of a professional athlete. These are the arms of someone’s particularly active father, the kind of dad who does homemade masonry projects over the weekend, likes to get a good sweat going, and quench it with a nice, tall glass of cool, sugary lemonade. In thinking, as Mychal's tweet prompted, about the state of NBA arms, Klay’s shapeless drapers were the first ones to come to mind. I wondered, even, if perhaps his father was trying to send him a message.
But I also think that Klay himself is the most interesting case of RoundArms in the modern league. Is there a player who is more suited to the needs of modern teams than Klay Thompson? We’re talking about a 40 percent three-point shooter who plays sturdy defense and has the mental makeup to not really give a shit about the probable full extent of his talents getting swamped by two or three more possession-fhungry on-court comrades. There is no team in the current NBA, at least not one I can think of, that would not be improved if they had Klay Thompson on the wing. He is the modern NBA ideal, and yet, here he is, sporting two dachshund looking arms.
But Klay Thompson’s daschunds are really just a sign of the times. Once, the realm of player selection was the dominion of scouts, working with their eyes, experiences, and the occasional non-scientific hunch. But now, we see those dudes’ influence scaled back, sharing and even subordinating to the whims of numbers, less biased, less prone to visual judgements, less likely to be taken aback by a pair of big ol' sculpey arms; we see the training attitudes of players slowly shifting away from tiny lil’ arm crunches and into the world of powerful core shit and tedious skill development, looking less to make a visual impression and looking more towards blowing someone away with applicable skill sets.
For the game itself, this is a net positive. But in the realm of Athletics as the exaltation of the Human Form, I also think, perhaps, our more properly scaled round boys taking over the games isn’t so bad. Look, for instance, at Discobolus, a famous Greek statue of a Greek dude preparing to throw a discus a long distance. Really scope those arms:
And then compare it to this recent photo of Klay Thompson loading up from three:
Muscles in active posture, alive and large. Not showy certainly, we do not see the galaxies in their crevices as we do when we see David Robinson, but, I think, still beautiful in their own way, an attainable ideal for the citizenries of Greece and America alike. Even if the silken, toned beeflord—a beauty to admire, for certain—is on his way out, the human body lives and thrives in sport nevertheless, even if it’s beauty is a little more subtle. We celebrate the flabby sportsman of the future.