Paul George was ashamed. He had to be. Garbage time, everyone ready to go home, just waiting on those seconds to peel off the clock and then he gets dropped. This was probably the first time in recorded history that a player went on Twitter after the fact and tried defending himself. Paul, just admit it. The rook got you. Norris Cole dabbled the salt shaker on you and you went stumbling five feet backwards.
There’s a reason why so many readers argued over whether this move we showcased in Smack was legal, or if it was even nice. Besides the dunk, no other play in basketball has the potential to thrill like the crossover does. Ask George or Cole.
On Monday night, I watched Jamal Crawford go off for 26, his best game as a Blazer. As up and down as one of the game’s premier sixth men has been this season (eight single-digit scoring games, five games with at least 20-plus), anyone that has the nickname J-Crossover has the potential to ignite the crowd, so much so that when I broke down the 10 best crossovers ever, Crawford made the list. This is nothing new. Back in our HoopsTV days, I remember asking on forums if someone could shed some light on Crawford highlights from high school. He could always dance.
There are guards all over the league who can shake. Ben Gordon has the sneakiest handle in the league. Kyrie Irving already has my new favorite spin move. I said back before the season started that Tyreke Evans might have the best all-around handles in the league. But the best crossovers? A few guys stand out above the rest.
Here are the players who own the five best crossovers in the game today.
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5. John Wall
I thought about Baron Davis, but he’d rather shoot threes than break someone down off the dribble. This isn’t 2005 anymore. I thought about Tony Parker but he’s unleashed just enough of an outside game that he isn’t cracking people as much as he used to back in the day. I didn’t really want to put John Wall here for a few reasons. 1) He’s barely had a year of pro ball in him. And 2) We don’t want to make a habit out of hyping him up too much. He’s going to be great (he’s already started making the jump in the past two weeks), but just needs a little more time. Yet at the end of the day, for everything he’s still learning, Wall definitely has one of the best crossovers in the league. It’s the Jason Kidd 2.0: He took what Kidd was great at – going coast-to-coast and changing directions at full speed – and added one of those boosters from The Fast And The Furious.
If you read our cover story on Wall back in issue #66, you’d know I spent a ton of time with the Wizards’ leading man this summer. We talked about his issues growing up, his insane 21st birthday parties and the Wizards’ struggles. But perhaps more than anything, I wanted to know how he pulled off the moves he does: the full-speed crossover and the spin move. His answers were simple: I only react. I don’t plan moves and I don’t really practice them. It’s all reading the defense and reacting off of it.
Wall actually might have the best stationary cross in the game. His ability to go from standstill to full speed off one side-to-side dribble (as Evan Turner finds out here) is almost unparalleled.
4. Derrick Rose
Earlier this season against Atlanta, Jeff Teague was hit with it. It was so fast, and so clean, Rose basically picked him up and planted his roots in the dirt. The ATL point wasn’t moving. Like a tiny tidal wave coming straight around him, Teague either had to let it go or risk getting in the way and getting toppled. Rose doesn’t have the most asthetically pleasing crossover. He doesn’t sway like Crawford, doesn’t head fake like Deron Williams and doesn’t bounce on the turn like Wade. But he might be the most athletic point ever, and it shows in the way he changes directions.
3. Dwyane Wade
Wade might still be the most explosive guard in the game, and his first step off the dribble is still too hot to feel for most defenders. But back in the day, there was no one touching his crossover. He got everyone with it, and was one of the few guys in the league who had it all: the regular crossover, the stepback, through-the-legs and even behind-the-back. No one in recent memory has had the change of direction ability Wade has. He’s been doing the same moves for years, and coaches are still breaking clipboards over them.
“There’s no better feeling than that,” Wade once said about taking bodies, and over the course of his career, he’s left enough wide chalk outlines to put Crayola out of business. When I went to the Fly Wade 2 launch in Miami with D-Wade last month, it seemed like the whole concept of the new sneaker was centered around one idea: Being able to absorb a change of direction.
“He’s super hard on his shoes,” the lead designer Andre Doxey told me. Wade has to be. This is his bread and butter, and his crossover is like Leonidas on a cloudy day: no prisoners and no mercy. Just ask guys like Andrei Kirilenko, Evan Turner, Baron Davis, Eric Snow and Ray Allen.
2. Jamal Crawford
Ray Allen’s not the only one to get an ankle workout from the only player in the league actually named after his crossover. Crawford’s game may not be remembered long after he retires – a career 15-point a night player on 41 percent shooting shouldn’t be – but they’ll still be playing tapes of his shake-n-bake and isolation crossovers 15 years from now.
“Jamal Crawford, my homeboy from Seattle, has the best crossover in the league,” Jason Terry said recently. “Jamal’s crossover is so tough because he’s so long and he stretches it out. There’s no way you’re going to get to it.”
He’s right. If we’re going by a traditional, boom bap crossover, there’s no better teacher than J-Cross. He says he learned it from watching first Tim Hardaway, then Isiah Thomas and finally Allen Iverson. He has the handles to do anything, but normally he reserves his legendary left-to-right cross for anyone crazy enough to check him in an isolation situation.
Crawford is probably the only role player in the whole league who could go on any team and get put in late-clock, late-game situations with orders being: “Go get us a shot.” He’s unique like that. Does he have the best in the NBA? If we asked him, I’m sure he’d probably say yes.
1. Deron Williams
We must’ve forgot. Since being banished to the wastelands in New Jersey, and then starting off this year playing with more sad faces than those PETA commercials, Williams doesn’t even get mentioned with the best lead guards in the game anymore. But you can’t deny, his crossover is filthy. It’s 104-temperature sick. It’s pure cancer.
Williams doesn’t just cross people. He yanks them, and he does it all the time. Most of the guys on this list have other go-to moves. But Williams? He’s coming with the crossover every time. He’s so strong that once you’re on his hip, it’s over. Plus Williams is one of the few guys who gets his whole body into it, even his feet, shoulders and head. To feign like he’s going one way, he’ll step extra hard and quickly drop his shoulders before yanking his whole body in the other direction. I haven’t seen something so nasty since The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
“Most of the time,” Williams once said about his pick-n-roll tactics, “because the lane’s clogged up, I just clear out the whole floor and make everybody go low.”
Then from there, it’s cookout time.
Who has the best crossover in the league?
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