The Top 10 Assists In NBA History

By: 09.28.11
Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo (photo. Gary Land)

A nice dish may be the most underrated play in basketball. Obsessing over a dunk or a crossover is common, but how often do you really see a one-of-a-kind assist? Very rarely. They’re always overblown and overhyped. A no-look pass is almost never that. We almost never get a truly breathtaking pass because lets face it, no one practices passing. Kids go to the gym and work on ballhandling for hours – crossovers, behind-the-backs and through-the-legs. Then some Plyometrics or squats because we all want to dunk and we all want to walk into a gym and get instant cred. No one respects a pass; Everyone respects a dunk.

Even on YouTube, rarely will you find a single assist sitting with its own video, and yet you can go on and find even the plainest facials getting the all-star solo treatment (which is ironic because there are millions of different passes. How many different dunks have you seen?). That made this list so hard… going through countless top 10 mixes instead of single clips. So I knew going in this would be infinitely more difficult than the Top 10 Alley-Oops list. But I think I did this enough justice.

Chicagorilla gave me the idea to make this list in a recent Smack, and I decided to run with it. We have the time. The lockout isn’t going anywhere. There were a few other top 10 lists that were on my plate, but I held off on them to try to tame this beast. And just like the top 10 alley-oop list, I had to come up with a few rules:

1) The pass had to end in a bucket
2) It had to be done in a regular season NBA game (sorry J-Will, your elbow pass would’ve been top five)
3) And it had to be from one teammate to another (no self-passes off the backboard)

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Jason Williams and Jason Kidd were some of the first names I came up with while starting this idea. While they’re all mentioned, I decided immediately this wasn’t going to be a “Greatest passes by the best players ever” list. If Matt Maloney made a pass that left me wide-eyed, he was making the cut. It wasn’t going to matter whether it was him or John Stockton. Names would count for nothing.

So with that, here are the 10 greatest assists of all-time (and Honorable Mentions):


The Best Of The Rest:
LeBron James‘ Behind-The-Back (at 3:20 mark)
LeBron James‘ Over-The-Head (at 2:54 mark)
Jason Williams‘ No-Look Drop Off (1:50 mark)
Jason Williams‘ Behind-The-Back (1:03 mark)
Jason Kidd‘s Wild Behind-The-Back (at 3:00 mark)
Jason Kidd‘s Unique Scoop
Larry Bird‘s Over-The-Head (at 4:00 mark)


10. Steve Nash’s Wraparound (at 1:54 mark)
Number one on this video is pretty crazy too. But Nash’s wraparound to Amar’e Stoudemire in the playoffs is just too good. He has his entire body facing out of bounds with nowhere to go and Tim Duncan directly behind him. So Nash does the only sensible thing, and that’s to cuff the ball with his arms completely outstretched and whip it backwards behind TD without looking, in the hope that Amar’e will still be sitting there 10-15 feet away wide open.

9. Joe Dumars’ Out-Of-Bounds Save (at 3:51 mark)
…At least I think that’s Dumars. Why isn’t this higher? Because I’m convinced Joe D wasn’t actually trying to make that pass, but rather just saving the ball inbounds and trying to get it to some general area. It just happened to set up Dennis Rodman for an easy dunk and became one of the best passes ever.

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