Last year, ESPN’s Beckley Mason ran one of the most underwhelming basketball articles True Hoop has ever published entitled “The NBA’s Most Signature Moves”. At one point he references a rebounding tactic Dwight Howard uses to fake out defenders by tapping them on one shoulder and moving in the opposite direction. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself. Sure, that is something most fans would not notice, but it’s more than a reach to say the worst middle school flirting move of all-time has found a second life as one of the NBA’s signature plays. When I first saw the tagline on ESPN.com, I thought to myself, “this has got to be good.” Basketball players, more than any other sport, have the ability to make “Holy Shit!” signature plays like a Lob City dunk, LeBron James doing absolutely everything on a fastbreak, an Allen Iverson crossover, or even all the way back to the Kareem Sky-Hook. When you see it happen, you can’t help but marvel at the sheer unstoppable nature of the play, and the fact that no one else in the entire league does it quite like that particular player (or group of players). LeBron in transition doesn’t make the list because it’s not necessarily one move he makes, but rather a series of options he has in his bottomless arsenal. So my devoted reader(s), here is what Mr. Mason should have published last year. I present to you “The NBA’s Most Unstoppable Moves”…
5. Stephen Curry’s 3: Granted this isn’t necessarily a “move,” but if Curry gets a split second to shoot the ball you can kiss it goodbye because he barely jumps to release the ball. Dell Curry’s kid from Davidson has brought the smoothest stroke in college basketball straight to the league and is widely recognized as the best pure shooter in the game. His shot is lightning quick and deadly accurate. He can hit it off the dribble or off the catch and his 90-50-40 splits are no aberration. And guess what? As long as he is healthy, the Warriors are going to be in the playoffs.
4. Kyrie Irving’s Spin Move: I hated him on Duke because I hate Duke (Tar Heel Nation!!), but Kyrie Irving is the real deal. Last year, Irving nearly sent Tommy Heinsohn into the Looney Bin with his ball-handling display on the parquet culminating with this move against Boston defensive ace Avery Bradley. When I saw this happen, I went from skeptic to believer in a flash. I have been following Uncle Drew very closely since then and last year near the end of his rookie campaign, I predicted that he will be the premier PG starting out the 2014-2015 season. The reason this move is so effective is because of Kyrie’s unpredictability with the rock in his hands and the ability to finish with either hand (see Boston Celtics 1/22/13). Any move he executes is spectacular, and defenders have no idea which way he is going next. And by the way, he isn’t even 21.
3. Kevin Durant’s Hesitation FLUSH: Kevin Durant is the best scorer in basketball. Hands down. End of discussion. Period. Six-foot-eleven with a seven-six wingspan, the handles of a 2 guard, a HOF stroke with unlimited range, and the athleticism to posterize anyone daring to challenge him at the rim, KD terrorizes defenders. Because you have to respect KD’s stroke he often hesitates/headfakes the defender into biting on the shot, leaving a wide open lane to flush it home before the help defense can rotate. And when he does, my is it glorious.
2. Chris Paul’s Crossover/Stepback: There are ten seconds left in the game. Your team is down one point. You can have any player with the ball in their hands. Whom do you pick? With all due respect to Kobe Bean, LeBron, and KD, I am going with CP3. He is a clutch free throw shooter, has the tightest handle in the league, isn’t afraid to pass if double-teamed *coughcoughKobecoughcough*, and has the best crossover dribble in the game (though his teammate at #1 may object to such a claim). The move I am referencing isn’t a simple hand-to-hand crossover. What makes CP’s go-to so special is that it is often the end of a jab-jab-uppercut-KO dribbling display that leaves him wide open at the right elbow, his sweet spot. He usually crosses over, left to right, backwards between his legs, while also executing a stepback/sidestep, and in perfect balance, swishes his shot. Good luck to the OKC Thunder dealing with this in the Conference Finals.
1. The Jamal Crawford “Shake-and-Bake”: The front-runner for Sixth Man of the Year is also the league’s slickest ball-handler. Remember when Rafer Alston aka “Skip-to-my-lou” came in off of the AND-1 circuit and was supposed to wow the NBA with unmatched handles? Well, he never lived up to those expectations, but Jamal Crawford has been doing this since he entered the league back in 2000. He has the most indefensible pull-up jumper off of a left hand hesitation dribble (a move that every competent player uses aside from Rajon Rondo), but he is most famous for his “Shake-and-Bake”. Let me paint you a picture of the move. Crawford dribbles full-speed at you with limbs flying at all sorts of obtuse angles (as a defender you have to respect the aforementioned pull-up jumper so you’re already dreading what this man is about to do to you), dribbles behind his back from his right hand to his left hand, plants both feet in the ground simultaneous with the ball reaching his left hand, hop-steps in the opposite direction while bringing the ball back behind his back from his left hand to his right hand (leaving the defender utterly clueless as to why the guy he was guarding is now 5 feet in front of him) and converts an easy layup sending the crowd into an absolute hysteria. I remember seeing Crawford pull this move off while playing for the Knicks and I said “I GOT to learn that move.” It’s just that good. However, no one will ever be able to do it quite like JCROSS.