The NBA’s Top 5 Dancers

Psy‘s “Gangnam Style,” like the “Cat Daddy” and “Dougie” before it, is the latest dance to go viral. At the time of this writing, the video has more than 144 million views on YouTube, and there are thousands more videos of others impersonating the dance on the web.

The question now becomes: who will be the first NBA player to bust out the “invisible horse” in-game? (Challenge issued, NBA players.)

The tradition of dancing in the NBA is surprisingly deep. Of course, cheerleaders and “dance packs” are a staple of halftime entertainment at basketball games. But players have been known to spontaneously break into step, as well. Antoine Walker popularized the “Shimmy” in the ’90s, flapping his shoulders back-and-forth after three-point shots. Mark Madsen also showed the world his moves (or lack thereof) at the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship parades in 2001 and 2002.

Probably the most exceptional dancer in NBA history, though, is Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq rarely passes on an opportunity to boogie down, and admittedly, is pretty talented when doing so. (In his first autobiography, Shaq Talks Back, he briefly discusses breakdancing as a youth.) While O’Neal produced a number of dance-related highlights, the highlights were his dance-off with pop star Justin Bieber, and the legacy of choreographed dance routines we now see annually at the NBA All-Star Game.

When Shaq retired from basketball in June of 2011, he also vacated the title of “Best Dancer in the NBA.” In this sense, then, last season was an informal audition for the league’s dance crown.

And so, after careful deliberation on the part of this untrained and rhythm-less writer, the results are in.

Here are the top five dancers in the NBA.

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If the brief history of viral dance crazes has taught us anything, it’s that the simplest moves are often the most contagious. In the case of Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels (who is currently not on a NBA roster), they invented “Flex Dance.” Flexing is a move that sort of resembles a stationary chin-up, and according to Dooling, was a way for the Boston Celtics bench to energize the players on the floor. Although Boston ultimately fell to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Dooling and Daniels had C’s fans flexing throughout the spring.

The parallels between Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal are plentiful – extending right down to their propensity to get down. For his part, Dwight cranked that Soulja Boy (fitting given his Superman nickname), put a ring on it, and battled Shaq Diesel in a dance-off during the 2007 All-Star Weekend. With the Lakers, Howard can now put on a show in the entertainment capital of the world. We’ll see if his recent back surgery has any negative effect on his ability to get jiggy with it.

While NBA players were locked out last fall, Metta World Peace swapped his Ball’n kicks for dancing shoes as a participant on the thirteenth season of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. World Peace performed the “cha-cha” – even donning a Sisqo/Chris Brown-style blonde hair cut in the process. Despite being the first cast member to be eliminated from the show, anyone who is willing to collaborate with professional dancers and be judged by choreographers in front of millions of viewers on national television gets immediate props from me. Metta gets points for degree of difficulty here.

2. JOHN WALL, Washington Wizards
Rule: if an NBA player has a dance created in his name, he probably deserves to be mentioned in a post about dancing in the NBA. In 2010, then-college freshman John Wall inspired a legitimate dance phenomenon when he flexed to the left and flexed to the right during a University of Kentucky Wildcats rally. The move was endorsed by millions of fans, including Kentucky coach John Calipari, Drake, and a song performed by rap group Troop 41 (which asked us to “Flex to the left, throw some money out your hands/We do it for the city, yeah, we do it for the fans/To ball like Wall, boy, you got to do the dance/Everybody do the John Wall”). The “John Wall” belongs in the pantheon of viral dance moves, alongside the “Sprinkler,” “Jerk,” “Dougie,” “Stanky Leg”, and the immortal “Harlem Shake,” and thus, lands John Wall the runner-up spot on our list.

1. LeBRON JAMES, Miami Heat
This season, LeBron James proved two things. First, that he is the league’s best dancer, and second, that he is a champion (although some might argue the reverse). Most impressive about LeBron’s dance skills is his versatility. In the same way that he’s able to play all five positions on the basketball floor, he is also able to move in an array of styles on the dance floor. Over 10 seasons, ‘Bron has shown he’s able to perform traditional numbers, as he did with his sideline “can-can” against the Bulls, renditions of ’80s classics like “My Prerogative” and “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”, workouts with cheerleaders, as well as championship celebrations with both the Miami Heat and Team USA. One might say that LeBron has moves like Jagger, Jackson and Astaire.

And so, in a year in which LeBron added an NBA ring, a second Olympic gold medal, and a third NBA MVP to his mantle, he can now also call himself the “Best Dancer in the NBA.” For some reason, I don’t think this award will matter quite as much.

Honorable Mention: Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins, Nate Robinson, Steve Nash, Glen Davis, Vince Carter, Kevin Durant

Who do you think is the best dancer in the NBA?

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