When you are playing basketball, there is always that time when you catch yourself imitating a move one of your favorite players did. I can remember when I was younger trying to imitate Jamal Crawford‘s shake-n-bake move, a move he usually pulls off on a fast break when he will dribble the ball behind his back and bring it back around as fast as he can, losing his defender. Let’s just say it did not work out for me (reason No. 76 why I am a writer).
The NBA is full of players that have transcended the game with moves they patented and made their own. Signature moves are all about efficiency, creativity and style. Below are the 20 best signature moves in NBA history.
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20. Tracy McGrady – off-the-backboard dunk
When T-Mac first pulled off this move during a preseason game in Boston during his first year in Orlando, he caught everyone off guard. Then he took it worldwide during the 2002 NBA All-Star Game. He continued doing it a couple more times in All-Star Games and regular season games.
19. LeBron – chase-down block
When a player is on a fast break against Miami — and Cleveland before that — they could never expect a 6-8 forward, as fast as anyone else in the league, to come out of nowhere to block their shot. LeBron has made it a signature and offensive players have to now think twice about casually coasting to the hoop.
18. Tony Parker – floater
Tony Parker never gets the respect he deserves. He stands only 6-2 but consistently ranks with the best in the league in points in the paint. One of the reasons is because of his beautiful tear-drop.
17. George Gervin â€“ finger roll
George Gervin, also known as The Iceman, used his finger roll to gracefully put the ball in the hoop.
16. Jamal Crawford â€“ shake-n-bake
Jamal Crawford has one of the best crossovers ever in the game. If you ask an NBA player right now who has the best handle in the league, many will say Jamal. It is like he has the ball on the string and defenders are his puppets. He is one of the best sixth men in the league for the Clippers and brings excitement every night.
15. Rajon Rondo – behind-the-back ball fake
Rajon Rondo may have not created the fake behind-the-back pass or ball fake, but he has used his fakes effectively for years. Eight years into the league, Rondo has become one of the best point guards in the NBA. After a year out with an ACL injury, last week against the Lakers, Rondo’s first bucket came after he faked a beautiful behind-the-back pass on Pau Gasol .
14. Dirk Nowitzki – one-legged fadeaway
Dirk’s one-legged fadeaway jumper is one of the most unstoppable moves ever in NBA history. It is hard enough to defend a 7-footer that can shoot with the best of them, but when he fades away it is close to impossible for a defender to guard it. He uses it effectively as he does not need that much space to get the shot off and puts a perfect arc on the ball. Looking at the video below, his fellow NBA colleagues talk about how difficult it is defending the shot. Players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant have tried to mimic Dirk’s fadeaway but there can only be one.
13. Magic Johnson â€“ no-look pass
It was “Showtime” when Magic Johnson was on the court. He is one of the greatest point guards to play the game. He was very tall, which made him see over defenders. His showmanship on the court was entertainment for fans, and because of all of this, he was one of the first to pull off “true” no-look passes
12. Tim Duncan – bank shot
People forget it is not illegal to use the backboard. Duncan has made a living off making the bank shot. Fundamentally sound, he makes the shot look easy while squaring up and releasing it off the glass.
11. Bob Cousy â€“ flashy passes
Bob Cousy was the first showman in the NBA in the 1950s and ’60s and was nicknamed the “Houdini of the Hardwood”. He transformed the game with his playmaking and dazzling plays. With Bill Russell as his running mate, Cousy won six championships in seven years.
10. Kevin McHale â€“ range of offensive post moves
Kevin McHale had one of the best inside games in the league during his 13-year stint with Larry Bird and the Celtics. His low-post game was very unique and it contained a variety of moves that upset defenders. Charles Barkley once stated that McHale was the greatest player he ever played against. McHale’s dominance in the post contained a series of pump fakes, hook shots and fadeaways that helped him become one of the most dominant offensive big men to ever play in the NBA.
9. Kobe Bryant â€“ spin jumper
When a player is out there on the island facing Kobe Bryant, there is not much that defender can do but hope he is misses. Kobe arguably has the best footwork of any basketball player in the league. He treats basketball like it’s a science and knows which way his defender will lean or jump. He has so many weapons in his craft that make him effective.
8. Tim Hardaway – killer crossover aka the UTEP 2-Step
Tim Hardaway’s killer crossover was vicious back in the early ’90s. He changed the way players dribbled the basketball forever and broke a lot of ankles while doing so. He would run full stride and switch directions between-the-legs, leaving defenders looking frozen. John Stockton got it the worst on many occasions.
7. Manu Ginobili – Euro-step
Revolutionized the Euro-step and made it popular in the NBA. It seems like that is the go-to move in the NBA in recent years. Dwyane Wade has also used the move effectively and even Kendrick Perkins tried to take a crack it and failed miserably. It is one of the toughest moves to guard because Manu switches directions so fast — defenders think they can draw a charge — and he scores smoothly.
6. Dominique Wilkins â€“ tomahawk dunk
Nicknamed The Human Highlight Film, Dominique was an incredibly gifted athlete that put on dunking exhibitions during games (Sorry, Blake, you were not first). He competed with Michael Jordan in almost every dunk contest in the ’80s and won a few.
5. Shaquille O’Neal – black tornado
Shaq was one of the most dominant forces ever in the league. His self-nicknamed move “The Black Tornado” was a move no defender wanted to be a part of… you know, with a swift 300-pounder spinning in the lane and dunking or catching a lob on their head.
4. Allen Iverson – crossover
Allen Iverson will forever be remembered for his devastating crossovers. Standing only at a supposed 6-0, Iverson used the moved brilliantly to create space and get his shots. He has become an idol for every basketball player who thinks they have handle. Iverson is also one of the few that can say that he had Michael Jordan on skates.
3. Hakeem Olajuwon – Dream shake
Hakeem owned David Robinson during the 1995 NBA Playoffs and embarrassed him with a series of countless Dream Shakes. It was rare to see a center with his skill-set, and he continually faked out opponents, losing them completely.
2. Michael Jordan â€“ reverse layups
There is no NBA player in history that has had as many signature moves as his Airness. MJ defied gravity with an array of aerial moves that left crowds grasping. He had perfect flexibility, separating him from everybody else. My personal favorite is a significant play against the New Jersey Nets when he double-clutched twice in the air with two defenders on him and glided to the other side of the rim to make the shot.
We could’ve put his fadeaway here, too, seeing as he globalized that shot as well. But his reverse layups, with those monster-sized hands, were a thing of beauty, taking what Dr. J started and pushing it to the next level.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar â€“ skyhook
Kareem’s skyhook was impossible to defend as no one was tall enough to contest it. There was not much people could do — he was 7-2, with arms that reached to the sky, and a release on the shot that must’ve started a foot above his head.
What are your favorite signature moves ever?
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