A few days ago, on a blog about Allen Iverson’s latest visit to Philadelphia (AI bobblehead night), I posted a comment about Iverson having the best crossover move in the history of the NBA. Not surprisingly, someone brought up Tim Hardaway’s two-step crossover.
This debate has gone on for some time now.
So whose Killer Crossover is indeed the ultimate “AnkleBreaker”?
Which move guarantees a path to the hoop or some space between shooter and defender?
Can this even be measured and ascertained?
Is there any other player who should contend for the mythical title?
While there are numerous guards in the history of the game who have developed their own deadly version of the mis-directing move, I think most fans will agree that the competition comes down to the two legendary NBA guards: Tim Hardaway and Allen Iverson. In their primes, both regularly resorted to their signature move, and by doing so, both were consistent in getting to the hoop, pulling up for a J or dishing an assist. Hardaway’s killer crossover allowed him to reach 5000 points second-fastest (next only to the Big O, Oscar Robertson) while Iverson’s paved the way to four league scoring titles.
Hardaway’s patented “step-to-step” (also called “Texas Two-Step” or “two-step”) crossover has allowed him to escape a great many defenders. And it is hard to think of anyone who relied on a similar move night-in and night-out. What I find most amazing about his in-between the legs dribble move is that it looks easy enough to execute by most, even duplicate, but to have used it so effectively and consistently against NBA-level guards, may be something that only he could do. Overcoming degrees of difficulty, Hardaway could also perform the move while running top-speed on the break en route to the basket.
Iverson’s original shoulder-high left-to-right crossover move was so effective, so potent, that it was deemed illegal by the NBA soon after he turned Pro. Officials ruled that the technique, greatly enhanced by Iverson’s unrivalled quickness and agility, gave the 6-foot guard too much of an advantage over his defenders. This development did not stop AI from utilizing a subtler version of his crossover that complied with NBA requirements but nevertheless equally effective. This toned-down cross is actually what we have gotten used to seeing from Iverson during his heyday. And as the prolific albeit controversial guard has proven countless times, his anklebreaker guaranteed escape and opportunity.
Originating from the playground, AI’s streetball manuever is arguably the fancier, more crowd-pleasing move. It was consistent with the term “anklebreaker” as it had defenders shifting heavily towards one direction and occasionally falling to the floor. Even top defensive players in the league had a hard time keeping up and were at times humiliated in their efforts to do so.
Tim Hardaway’s version also had most guards going the wrong way (usually Hardaway’s left) but very rarely have we seen him drop players with it. NBA players, however, have said that it is the more difficult crossover move to replicate, specially in an NBA game where the highest level of basketball defense is played.
After having watched numerous live Iverson and Hardaway games in the past, and countless more NBA videos (thank you, youtube), it is my submission that, more than the players’ technique, it is their athleticism – their speed, quickness and timing – that allows these shifty guards to squeeze past their man; that these same stars would still overcome their defenders even if they resorted to a simpler version of the crossover. Relying on their patented moves increased their rate of success (and subsequently, the game’s level of excitement).
Now the reason why I consider Iverson’s crossover to be better than Hardaway’s and the best in the history of the game? It was the more in-your-face-I-will-blow-by-you-and-you-will-look-stupid type of one-on-one move. It was a cool, entertaining and highly effective envy-in-citing weapon that guaranteed to break some poor, hapless guy’s ankles. While Hardaway could use his rendition on the break, Iverson’s was exclusively a one-on-one streetballer’s move, and used successfully on the grandest stage of them all against players like His Airness, Michael Jordan, only added to its pure awesomeness.