The NBA's Crossover Kings: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, and more...
What's good, basketball fans? The Articles That Diminish My Credibility as a Writer series continues with a look at the current NBA players most skilled at faking, fooling and generally freaking their defenders. Although the title suggests a fairly limited number of selection criteria, I'll be considering more than simply crossovers for this list, although they remain the primary factor in my decisions. As with previous articles, the players are not ranked in any particular order. Let's get right into things.
One, two, cup, lean, shake, step and switch. Although it has since been outlawed, Allen Iverson once owned the license for one of the most dangerous weapons in the league, a move so effective that he turned Mike with it twice in a single play. As a sub-six-footer weighing something in the region of one hundred and sixty pounds as a rookie, The Answer didn’t have the option to power through his opponents, and, even with a forty-something-inch vertical, he was rarely in a position to go over them. That left him to figure out ways to beat his defenders to the basket, and he often chose to do so not with raw speed, but rather with an array of ball and body fakes which made for almost as many highlights as buckets. While his trademark crossover was deemed illegal by the league, A.I. still has more shakes than a Dairy Queen, and even with a little less spring in his step, there’s still a good chance he’ll pull one out of the bag on any given night.
The man known as “Too Easy” at Rucker Park may be known more for his jams than crossovers, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of losing his defenders as creatively as any other guard in the league. Although most nowadays move their men with multi-directional dribbling, Baron makes his defenders look silly with slick spin moves, the likes of which we haven’t often seen this millennium. If anybody else saw how he put Manu in the spin cycle with a shifty three-sixty, they’ll know what I’m talking about.
Another little man with a reputation founded on aerial exploits, Franchise has a sizeable repertoire of crossover moves, his favourite being the ever-reliable lean-right-cross-left, opening up the lane for all sorts of fun. He once crossed Peja so quickly that he actually looked over the wrong shoulder after Steve blew by him, apparently unaware what had happened even after he’d been beaten.
To the representative(s) of Dwyane Wade, Jr.,
I am writing this letter to formally state my intention to mount legal action against Mr. Dwyane Wade. During a recent NBA contest between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, your client crossed one Eric Snow with such ferocity that several bones in his ankles shattered. Although watching the aforementioned game thousands of miles away from my home in the south of England, I was struck by two errant shards, later identified as parts of Mr. Snow’s talus and navicular bones. Not only did I suffer damage to my vintage Gheorghe Muresan jersey, but I also hyper-extended my vocal cords screaming “Did you see that?” repeatedly following the play.
I will accept as compensation either one million dollars U.S., or a guarantee that Dwyane will do it again. If he can show me how, I’ll even drop the civil case.
With Steph dribbling casually at the top of the key and Yao crouched in an awkward defensive stance, the most I was expecting was an interesting photograph highlighting the humorous mismatch. Marbles, however, decided to give us a poster, putting in a wicked fake to the left before switching it over, dropping the gentle giant from several feet away. Although more specific details of the play itself have slipped my mind, I still vividly remember yelling “Timber” as Mr. Ming crashed to the floor.
Whit may have toned his game down a little, but the playground style still shows through at times. As one of the few players with an effective hesitation cross in their arsenal, he’s capable of shifting defenders not only left and right, but also upwards while maintaining his handle, allowing him to blow by them for the easy two or a dish inside. Try it yourselves before you dismiss it as a simple move which preys on the stupidity of your opponent, and you’ll see that it’s surprisingly difficult to pull off.
My favourite Kobe highlight came when he took off from behind the dotted line and threw down a monster right-hander on the then-unknown (and bald) Ben Wallace of the Washington Wizards. While the dunk may have been considered the main attraction, it’s important not to forget that KB8 ended up in the middle of the paint as a result of a sweeping crossover that left his defender frozen to the floor. It may not be his most heralded skill, but Kobe’s ability to wrap opponents around themselves should not go unmentioned.
He may not be known as “Skip” to most nowadays, but Rafer Alston still has a bag of dribble tricks so swift and intricate that they can cross a spectator’s eyes as well as a defender’s legs. To quote MF DOOM, “You can’t take the street out the street person.” Fortunately for us, that means we’ll be seeing at least a few moves this year from Alston that would be more at home on the blacktop somewhere in New York.