Best Signature Moves in NBA History: Small Forwards

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2015

Best Signature Moves in NBA History: Small Forwards

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Almost every great player has some sort of signature move.

    Michael Jordan had the dunk from the free-throw line. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the sky hook. Allen Iverson had the crossover.

    Look at a list of all-time small forwards, and you'll find a plethora of skill sets. You'll see dunks or grace or gorgeous jumpers. The diversity of signature moves makes playing on the wing unique.

    Some small forwards are scorers; others are distributors. The greats are both and certainly have a chance to show off some flash. The best ones do it in the most consistently comfortable ways. 

    Check out the first two parts of this series, in case you missed the rundown of the best signature moves from the point guards and shooting guards. Now, on to the small forwards.

Dr. J's Baseline Scoop

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    We all know and love Dr. J's athleticism, but the man known to his mother as Julius Erving had some other traits going for him as well. 

    The Doctor averaged more than 24 points per game during his career, soared for rebounds and swatted shots; he did everything. But what everyone remembers is the baseline scoop.

    We remember the insane athleticism it took to levitate for that long. We remember how ginormous a human being's hands must be to straight-arm the ball for that long. We remember the context of it coming in the 1980 NBA Finals.

    We're never forgetting it.

Dominique Wilkins' Windmill Dunk

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    Wilkins is the ultimate "signature move" player. How many notable dunks did this guy have? Heck, his nickname was the Human Highlight Reel (one of the best nicknames of all time, by the way).

    Of all the actual and potential highlights Wilkins was a part of, let's pick his most famous dunk: the windmill. 

    Sure, we see windmills all the time now, but 'Nique was the guy who made them cool, and he did them whenever he wanted. The guy was a freak. Just go to YouTube and watch as many videos of him as possible. You'll be happy at the end. 

Carmelo Anthony's Jab Step

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    It's a strange juxtaposition that Carmelo Anthony, who can be as exciting as anyone, would have such a boring go-to move. But guess what? It works. 

    Melo loves catching at that 18-foot area, goading his defender with a jab step, waiting until the defense is off balance and then fading away with a perfect mid-range jumper. 

    Anthony hasn't always been able to shoot the three, though he's deadly from long range now, but he has always nailed that shot from beyond the elbow and inside the arc. It's why he's a career-long great shooter even if he hasn't always been accurate from three.

    He's been killing the league with the jab step since 2003, and he'll keep it up for longer than the 12 years since then.

Shawn Marion's Chest Shot

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    Let's get the compliments out of the way first. Shawn Marion might be a Hall of Famer.

    He's averaged 15.3 points and 8.7 rebounds over his career. He was historically underrated with the Phoenix Suns purely because he wasn't their best player. He averaged 19.3 points and 10.4 boards on 48-34-83 shooting during Years 2-8 of his career. 

    He reinvented himself as a lockdown defender and role player for winning and sometimes championship teams later in his basketball life. Marion in his prime, even after his prime, was so darn good. And so darn underappreciated. 

    But the guy has a shot that's uglier than Cyrano de Bergerac. Let's watch, shall we?

LeBron James' Chase-Down Block

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    Everyone knows LeBron's tomahawk dunk or his cross-court passing diligence, but the chase-down block almost describes him better than any other move.

    We've seen guys before throw down dynamic slams or make tremendous tosses, but no one made a particular type of block iconic in the way King James did. 

    Few plays better epitomize the combination of LBJ's size, speed, athleticism and length as when he pins a layup against the backboard. Well, except for maybe Shawn Marion's chest shot.

James Worthy Statue of Liberty Dunk

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    If James Worthy ended up on the Los Angeles Lakers the way he did during the mid-'80s in today's world, Twitter would erupt, the Internet as a whole would go down, and technology would forever cease to exist as it once did. 

    Can you imagine if the defending champions managed to get the first pick and selected the can't-miss prospect of the draft purely because one reckless owner decided not to care about his future? People would be madder than they were about the finale of Lost. Now, imagine if those defending champs were the Lakers...

    It's partly because of Worthy's draft class in 1982 that we now have what's commonly referred to as the Stepien Rule, which says that NBA teams can't trade their first-round pick in back-to-back seasons, a regulation named after the Cleveland Cavaliers' owner who sent one of the many first-rounders he gave away to L.A in '82. 

    Oh, that's right. Signature move stuff: Worthy also popularized the Statue of Liberty dunk, which we take for granted now, but at the time was an original beauty. 

Rick Barry's Underhand Free Throw

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    Let's get this out of the way: Red Auerbach is beyond hilarious in that video. He's perfect.

    Now, for Rick Barry's free throws: He still stands staunchly behind the idea of the underhand free throw. The guy just won't give it up. 

    Really, he still talks about it. Here's what he had to say about DeAndre Jordan just last week, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: "It's painful to watch anyone shoot free throws poorly. It's inexcusable to me because anybody can learn how to do something and do it well if you work at it enough."

    "He's a liability to his team, and he needs to do something to correct it," Barry said. "So it would be smart on his part to seriously give some consideration to learning how to do this."

    Barry actually shot 89 percent from the line during his career and led the league in free-throw percentage seven times. At least he backs it up. Maybe it's time for some other guys to listen.

Scottie Pippen's Pressure Steals

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    Scottie Pippen is the Robin to Michael Jordan's Batman, right? Isn't that the cliche we're supposed to promote about the NBA in the 1990s? It is, after all, a sentence every basketball fan has said at one point or another. 

    But it's not true. Pippen wasn't the Robin to Jordan's Batman. He was far too dominant to be Robin. It was more like he was the Batman to Jordan's Superman. (Yes, Superman is better than Batman, but that's a debate for a different time.)

    Pippen is one of the best defenders of all time, and when he was at his best, he would take calculated risks in the Bulls' dynamic full-court press, capitalize on bad passes and race to the other end of the floor. It led to a bunch of layups, like this one.

Larry Bird's over-the-Back Pass

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    The casual fan hears Larry Bird and thinks about shooting. Or maybe he thinks about his rivalry with Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the 1980s. But people don't talk enough about Bird's outrageous passing.

    Seriously, some of the dishes he made were completely and totally insane, including the multiple times in his career that he tossed an assist over his head without ever looking at his target (skip to the 17-second marker in the above YouTube video to see the first example of this).

    It's not that Bird would find his target and then make the pass without checking for him. It wasn't a look-away pass. It wasn't even a no-look pass. It was a never-look pass, gifting the ball to a teammate with no conceivable way of knowing that he was actually there. But that was Bird—as instinctual as instinctual could be.

Elgin Baylor's One-Handed Reverse

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    Baylor was known as the Man of a Thousand Moves for a reason. And that reason made it almost impossible to pick out just one big-time moment or trait of his. Still, there's something special about his reverse layups.

    Baylor used to hang around what's now the mid-range area (though he played before the three-point line), put the ball on the ground, drive by his defender and finish with a reverse around the hoop. His finish was almost reminiscent of Worthy's Statue of Liberty dunk, palming the ball with one hand and whipping around the hoop for a majestic finish.

    Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

    All quotes obtained firsthand. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Feb. 27 and are courtesy of and

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