Ranking 9 of the NBA's Most Disrespectful Crossovers of All Time

Mandela Namaste@@mandiba13Contributor IMay 20, 2020

Ranking 9 of the NBA's Most Disrespectful Crossovers of All Time

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Basketball fans love the game for myriad reasons. But one thing we can agree on is there's no more fun sight on a court than a wicked crossover.

    While it's not enjoyable to be the victim of a crossover, being a witness to one is like watching magic in action. It's material evidence of one player's dominance over their opponent—to such a degree as to potentially induce physical (and psychological) harm. 

    Here, we're sorting nine of the most disrespectful crossovers in NBA history. The rankings were determined by a variety of factors, including each play's result, game situation, opponent, cultural significance and subjectivity. In addition, for the sake of variety, we limited ourselves to one entry per player. This final criterion led to a few unfortunate omissions, but that's acceptable in the pursuit of fairness.

    Let's talk ankle-breakers.

9. Andre Iguodala on Quincy Miller (Warriors vs. Nuggets, April 10, 2014)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Play: Welcome to the NBA, Quincy

    Andre Iguodala doesn't finish this 2014 play with a made basket (though he was fouled), so minor points are deducted from its excellence. But my goodness, this double crossover is filthy.

    The Denver Nuggets' Quincy Miller played just 69 NBA games, so you could point out that Iggy's picking on somebody below his station, which makes it less impressive. But performing a crossover on a fast break seems like it would be much more difficult than in a half-court setting, as transition basketball is inherently a more fluid version of the sport.

    This perspective suggests Miller happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and that the behind-the-back dribble followed by the perfectly timed crossover the then-Golden State Warriors star performs would have fooled even the most adroit perimeter defender.

    Never one to hide his feelings on virtually any topic, Iguodala's face after the whistle is blown here says everything you need to know. He's simultaneously impressed with himself—and maybe even glad for Miller's sake that the shot didn't fall.

    Other than one famous example that we'll examine later, most of the crossover wizards on this list don't respond to the moves they pull off in real time, so Iggy's meme-worthy response sets the table for the rest of these involuntary-reaction-provoking moves. 

8. Jason Williams on Gary Payton (Kings vs. Sonics, Feb. 17, 1999)

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Play: No Problem With the Glove

    Michael Jordan clearly wasn't the only one who disregarded Gary Payton's defensive reputation.

    Though Jason Williams may not have been openly dismissive of Payton like Jordan was, he kept his cool on this 1999 play. The Sacramento Kings guard always seemed to pull off unthinkable moves with the most casual of attitudes, and this was no different. 

    After recovering a steal and leading Sacramento's fast break, White Chocolate momentarily pauses on the right wing, ostensibly to set up the offense. At least that's what Payton must have thought, as he reaches in to pluck the ball from Williams.

    Little did he know that Williams kept the ball on a string at all times, giving him the rare ability to speed right by The Glove. 

    To Payton's credit, he showed self-awareness regarding the embarrassment on the play, making eye contact with Williams afterward and smiling as if to say, Good one, rookie. Perhaps Payton was seemingly complimentary of Williams because the Kings guard was never a significant threat to the Sonics in the way that Jordan was, but Payton might also just appreciate the wherewithal to make such high-level plays. 

    Williams was only a phenomenon for a short time, but his star burned brightly when it did shine. Perhaps we'll soon make a list of the best elbow passes in NBA history to pay him proper homage, but this move on one of the greatest point guard defenders ever will suffice.   

7. Jason Kidd on Ron Harper, Scottie Pippen (Mavericks vs. Bulls, Nov. 21, 1995)

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    PAUL K BUCK/Getty Images

    The Play: Taking On Two Star Defenders? No Problem

    As we learned in Episode 8 of The Last Dance, the 72-win 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were locked in from the moment that season began. But for at least one game, a young Jason Kidd made the team look vulnerable. 

    Fresh off winning the 1994-1995 Rookie of the Year Award with the Dallas Mavericks, Kidd leveled up as a sophomore, averaging 16.6 points, 9.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game, and this November 1995 contest against the 7-1 Bulls fully announced him as a future star.

    Despite Dallas' six-point overtime loss, Kidd recorded a triple-double (25 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) and six steals, and this incredible sequence encapsulated his performance perfectly.

    First, Kidd crosses up Ron Harper, an impressive achievement on its own. But as soon as he speeds by Harper, Scottie Pippen leaves his man to cover Kidd on his trip to the basket.

    The presence of one of the greatest perimeter defenders in NBA history is only a minor inconvenience for Kidd, however, as he seamlessly changes direction on Pippen once again and completes the sequence by shoveling a pass between Luc Longley and Toni Kukoc to an open Lorenzo Williams, who slams the ball home.

    If all that sounds complicated, that's because it is. It's a testament to Kidd's sky-high basketball IQ—even as a 22-year-old on a rebuilding Mavericks team—that he made all that look as easy as possible.

6. Stephen Curry on Matthew Dellavedova (Warriors vs. Cavaliers, June 14, 2015)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Play: Curry Ascends the Pantheon

    It seems ridiculous now, but once upon a time, Stephen Curry's championship mettle was in question, even after he led the Warriors to their first NBA Finals appearance in 40 years.

    After the Cavaliers began using Matthew Dellavedova as Curry's primary defender in that 2015 series, that year's NBA MVP began to struggle. All of a sudden, the series was tied at two, and many wondered whether the fresh-faced sniper was a mere flash in the pan. 

    Well, Game 5 put all that speculation to bed.

    Curry obliterated the Cavs that night, recording 37 points on 13-of-23 shooting and capping the game with this insane crossover combination on the Aussie to help give Golden State a 3-2 series lead.

    It's unclear whether Curry went out of his way to school Dellavedova on this play, but regardless, the sequence speaks for itself. Despite the best efforts of Cleveland's replacement point guard (Kyrie Irving fractured his kneecap in Game 1), Curry's once-in-a-generation jumper triumphed in that moment and for most of the next five years. 

    A picture is normally worth a thousand words, but somehow, the great Mike Breen captured this moment in one, merely exclaiming "Wow!" as Curry's jumper snapped through the net.

    With those three letters, Breen relayed a feeling of euphoria that basketball fans ages three through 103 would all feel frequently over the coming seasons when watching Steph. His brilliance, both as a shooter and a ball-handling wizard, has made him one of the most entertaining players in NBA history.

5. Joe Johnson on Paul Pierce (Nets vs. Celtics, Nov. 28, 2012)

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    The Play: The Truth Gets Hurt

    Joe Johnson has several exceptional crossovers in his career highlight package. This one, however, far and away outpaces its competitors. 

    With the Brooklyn Nets up nine in the fourth quarter in Boston during this 2012 game, the Celtics are presumably defending like every possession is their last. Paul Pierce certainly is—he's in a stance and everything. But even a defensive crouch is useless when the ball-handler pulls out a trick from the Harlem Globetrotters, which Johnson essentially does. 

    The shooting guard uses Pierce's defensive intensity against him, bringing the ball as low to the ground as humanly possible while maintaining a dribble. As soon as Pierce bites to go for a steal, Johnson crosses him, brings the ball up to a normal level and unleashes a trademark wet jumper.

    Nets by 11, just over eight minutes to go in the ballgame.

    Iso Joe was full of surprises. Though not the most explosive athlete, he averaged 20 points per game five times. Though never considered among the game's elite, he was a seven-time All-Star (yes, all of those came in the Eastern Conference, but still impressive). And though Johnson always appeared to be a methodical ball-handler and all-around offensive player, he could break out flashy dribble combinations once in a while, stunning fans and opponents alike.

    The threat of such unpredictability behind a sheen of bland competence is part of what made Johnson a major contributor to winning throughout his 17-year career.

4. Kevin Durant on Julius Randle (Thunder vs. Lakers, Dec. 19, 2015)

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    The Play: Who Knew Herky-Jerky Dribbling Could Be So Smooth?

    Kevin Durant was already a full-fledged superstar with an NBA MVP award in 2015. But this crossover, eight-plus years into his illustrious career, serves as the most compact reminder of how special he is.

    Sure, Julius Randle isn't the most imposing defender, but look at how smooth Durant is on this possession. Every movement is carefully considered and efficient. The then-Oklahoma City Thunder star dribbles the ball three times before unleashing the crossover on Randle, and the poor Lakers big man has no chance to recover. 

    That play would be special if a guard did it, but its level of difficulty is raised exponentially by the fact that Durant, despite his best efforts to hide the truth, is seven feet tall. There's a good reason people have called KD arguably the most talented scorer in NBA history, and it's because he combines a transcendent shooting stroke with the height of a center and the handles of an All-Star point guard.

    Randle's an easy target, but when an All-World defender like Patrick Beverley is awestruck by your talent, you know you're doing well.

    Early reports out of Brooklyn indicate Durant is looking good in workouts post-Achilles injury, and for every possible reason, let's hope that translates to game action at some point soon. There's a whole league of unaware defenders ready for KD to baptize with his exceptional crossovers.

3. Kyrie Irving on Brandon Knight (Rising Stars Game, Feb. 15, 2013)

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    The Play: Kenny Smith Says It All—"Oh No," Indeed!

    Irving has become one of the NBA's most complicated superstars, as his mercurial personality defines him just as much as his on-court performance. For this entry, however, we're rewinding to a simpler time when nobody knew Kyrie's beliefs on the Earth's shape and we were all just dazzled by his complete command of the basketball.

    The Rising Stars Game isn't a regulation NBA matchup, so whether this move should count is a valid question. But in a way, the stakes of this exhibition make Irving's stunning dribble display on Brandon Knight even more impressive. 

    All-Star Weekend affairs are littered with alley-oops, unnecessarily elaborate layups and all sorts of flashy plays, so for Irving's 2013 combination to stand the test of time is proof of its brilliance. On this possession, Knight decides to play defense, and Kyrie immediately shows him why that's not wise, keeping the ball on a tight string and leading the Kentucky alum on the wildest of goose chases before stepping back to drain a jumper. 

    All Knight could do was watch from the floor. Between this play and DeAndre Jordan's instantly iconic victimization of him a month later, arguably no player in the internet era has had worse luck in contesting the game's elite. 

    On the other hand, perhaps Knight shouldn't feel so bad. Even today, Irving is perhaps the NBA's preeminent ball-handler. This sequence was just a sign of things to come.

2. James Harden on Wesley Johnson (Rockets vs. Clippers, Feb. 28, 2018)

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Play: AAU Comes to Staples 

    The minute this play happened, it was destined for the top of lists like these.

    There are several layers to unpack. First, this is a 2018 Houston Rockets-Los Angeles Clippers game. Just a month earlier, the two teams had played a heated matchup, with star players on both sides engaging in a literal back-room confrontation following the game.

    This is compounded by the fact that the Clippers traded Chris Paul to Houston for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, among others, the previous summer. Three of those players have famously spicy tempers (shout out to Williams, the NBA's 21st-century folk hero), and so emotions ran hot each time these teams played in 2018. 

    Finally, there's the play itself. James Harden's crossover isn't the most vicious we've seen on this list, and if he had merely dropped Wesley Johnson and then drained the shot, it may not have made it here. But Harden's pause and glance at the swingman, as if genuinely wanting him to get back up and contest the jumper, makes this one of the rudest plays you'll ever see on an NBA court.

    And while there's no evidence that this play directly ended Johnson's career, he played just 38 games in 2018-19 and wasn't on a roster at all in the 2019-20 season.

    Harden is a polarizing superstar, but NBA fans of all stripes united in his favor on one night in February 2018. Such is the power of a perfectly vicious crossover.

1. Allen Iverson on Michael Jordan (76ers vs. Bulls, March 12, 1997)

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    KIMBERLY BARTH/Getty Images

    The Play: A Torch Is Passed

    As a pure basketball play, this is not the most disrespectful crossover of all time. It's not even Allen Iverson's best. 

    Because of the one-entry-per-person rule, we omitted his nasty combination on Antonio Daniels and the endlessly memed jumper over Tyronn Lue.

    But the story from this 1997 game is much too good to pass up.

    As soon as Michael Jordan switches on to Iverson, the Philadelphia crowd realizes he's done so. And for the first time in a long time, Jordan is the one behind the curve. 

    Iverson gives him a first crossover without a lot of momentum and then swings the ball between his hands in a quicker yet more exaggerated fashion. Jordan is milliseconds late on his steal attempt, and that's enough time for The Answer to create space, rise and drain a jumper. 

    Though Iverson was not the spiritual heir to Jordan that Kobe proved to be, this was one of the first moments in which Michael showed vulnerability against a player as hyped as Iverson. It's also a neat encapsulation of the ways in which Iverson's generation updated basketball.

    You'll notice that most of these entries are from the 21st century, and that's because players such as AI, Stephon Marbury and Jason Williams made dribbling and crossovers into an art all their own around this time.

    For these narrative reasons, this crossover must top any and all lists of this kind.