By William Bixby
Tim Hardaway’s killer crossover – People now remember Tim Hardaway for a few homophobic comments made well after he retired from his NBA playing days. But, before Hardaway became a flaming bigot, he was the owner and inventor of the killer crossover. He was about 6’1” and 175 lbs. with a lightning quick first step and a mean handle. Hardaway would throw the basketball between his legs hard right, and then cross back left in front of his defender leaving them frozen in place. The play usually ended in a sweet floater or an easy assist.
Charles Barkley’s scoot – Charles Barkley was undersized compared to power forwards of his era. In fact, Barkley was undersized for a small forward. Though he was generously listed at 6’6”, his actual height was closer to 6’4”. Barkley had the height of a NBA shooting guard, but played and dominated in the post. Barkley had three assets that aided him in the paint, long arms, explosive leaping, and a big butt. He used that butt to back his defenders under the rim, and then finish over them. He pushed, scooted, and bullied his way to a Hall of Fame career.
Shaquille O’Neal’s spin move – Shaquille O’Neal was one of the biggest, most physically dominant players that the NBA has seen. Players had to use all their muscle and weight to fend him off in the post, so he was fouled on most plays. But, Shaq was as nimble as he was big. When he felt a smaller defender pushing with all his might against him, he spun quickly to the basket for an easy bucket. The man who could overpower anyone used their strength against them.
Magic Johnson’s no-look pass – The Laker’s fast break pushed offensive strategy boundaries and Magic Johnson’s no-look pass revolutionized basketball. Before him the standard of passing was the conventional chest pass and the standard of the misdirection was the simple ball fake. After Magic the one-handed bounce pass and the no-look pass became staples of the game. Magic would fly down the court at full speed look left and sling the basketball to a trailing teammate on the right effectively tricking the defense into guarding the wrong players.
Larry Bird’s jump shot – Larry Bird was one of the best shooters to ever grace the NBA with his presence. He is one of six players that have had a 50/40/90* year, and one of two players to do it more than once. He could really shoot the lights out, but at least part of the reason that Bird was so unstoppable was his unorthodox jump shot. He stood 6’9” and shot the basketball from behind his head with a ridiculously high release point. Bird shot could not be reached by defenders and was rarely blocked, because the basketball was never accessible.
Hakeem Olajuwon’s Dream Shake – Olajuwon’s Dream Shake was all predicated on his jump hook and his immaculate footwork. There is no clear way to explain his Dream Shake, because where he moved depended on where the defense was. That was the beauty of his move, it changed constantly. The shake that was most often referred to when talking about Olajuwon’s Dream Shake was when he fell out of bounds after faking an inordinate amount of times on the baseline. No one has ever seen that shot tipped.
Wilt Chamberlain’s drop step – Wilt was a freak athletically, and he made a simple move a staple of post play. He was bigger, faster, and stronger than anyone that he faced. Chamberlain learned that he could exploit defenders by getting them on his hip, turning to face the basket, and finishing over them. He was one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA history.
Michael Jordan’s fade away – Michael Jordan was the most pure scoring force that the NBA has seen. At shooting guard, he shot 49.7% from the field for his career which is incredible considering that his go to move was the fade away. Instead of the conventional, vertical jump that was the standard for jump shots, Jordan jumped away from his defenders, fading away from both contact and outstretched hands. With his outstanding athleticism, he could score in the face of double and triple teams on the basketball court. Jordan’s fade away could not be blocked.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s sky hook – Lew Alcindor was one of the most dominant players in high school history. When he moved to college, the NCAA instituted a rule that disallowed dunking to slow him. Instead of this rule stifling his game, it forced him to develop a new shot. He invented the most unstoppable shot in the history of basketball, the sky hook. Alcindor made a large sweeping motion with the ball extended, flicked his wrist and with a silky release hit the bottom of the nets. In the NBA, he changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar and went on to score more points than anyone in NBA history with the sky hook. It could not be blocked by the primary defender and was difficult to alter by secondary defenders. The sky hook was the most unstoppable move in NBA history.
*50/40/90 is an exclusive club where the players shoot 50% from the field, 40% from the three point line, and 90% from the free throw line. To qualify as a leader in field goal percentage a player needs at least 300 field goals, for three point percentage a player needs at least 55 three point field goals, and for free throw percentage a player needs at least 125 free throws. Only six players have accomplished a 50/40/90 season, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, and Dirk Nowitzki. Only Nash and Bird have done it twice. Nash has done it in 4 of the last 5 seasons.