'Swaggy' can feel a little ambiguous. Sometimes called 'flash', 'style', or 'swag', certain players have always done things with a little more character or pizzazz. Playing swaggy, in its varied form, has had its fair share of opposition.
Critics complain that the post-game died when Allen Iverson was born, that drop-steps stopped dropping upon the detachment of his umbilical. Some say Stephen Curry is single-handedly, triple-pointedly ruining a generation of hoopers while castrating the cojones of the cardinal long-2. Playing swaggy is doing difficult things because you want to, maybe for onlookers, amusement, or by nature. It's ignoring the prospects of an open lay up because of the appealing turn-around, fade-away J. It's pulling up for a shot that's certain to garner the complaints of a rubicund coach because you know that once the shot drops, the complaints will follow. Somehow, out of natural talent or unique practice, a bunch of guys have been able to successfully collate on-court proficiency with their braggadocio.
While new ballers like Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry miss the cut partly because they're too good and too recent, some older swag-on-a-millions like Chris Webber, Jamaal Tinsley, and Nick Van Exel aren't ranked because I'm currently suffering from recency effects. Some current shout-outs in include: Lou Williams scores a bench unit's worth and is known for having two girlfriends), Marreese Speights ( a ridiculous shot-selection that ex-coach Doug Collins wanted to get him therapy) and Lance Stephenson (who suspiciously blew in LeBron's ear) and the two Marios – Chalmers and Hezonja (the former is clutch and got away with yelling at LeBron, and the latter is literally in the league because of the swag-potential seen in his attitude, dunks, and range).
15 15. Nick "Swaggy P" Young
Nick Young has adopted and embraced the notion of swag so markedly that not granting him top 15 just feels too rude. His arsenal is literally restricted to 360 lay-ups and difficult jump shots. Off-court he is engaged to Iggy Azalea and very candid about his appreciation for her. He's also a notorious sneakerhead who has worn Supreme foamposites in-game as well as the unintended-for-basketball Yeezy 750 Boosts (causing his teammates to dub him Nick Yeezy), which he credits for his first ever assist to Kobe.
14 JR "JR Swish" Smith
JR Swish's name should essentially be shortened to his go-to, the J. As much as he probably enjoys partaking in them off-court, it's hard to imagine him liking anything more than pulling Js on-court. Getting beat up by Nate Robinson certainly drops his rank, but a penchant for absurd yams (climbing the ladder for the Nuggets, whirling and windmilling for the Knicks) and tough shots, helps. Off-court behavior on 100 too, JR was once fined by the league for tweeting a picture of his TV setup because the foreground was covered by the laying booty of his womanly company, and he’s a notorious DM plumber.
13 Lamar "Snowdom" Odom
Snowdom is a legend. One of the only guys on this list without the stature of a point/shooting-guard, Odom, in his prime, was a 6'10 lefty point-guard with enough flair to save you from a deserted island. After the flashiest times annoying Donald Sterling alongside Darius Miles on the Clippers, Snow won chips with Kobe as his 6th man bucketeer. Kobe trusted the guy to commandeer his ship for chips, 'nuff said. Actually, not enough said. Last, but certainly not least, a certainly elite Lamar is responsible for one of the most hilarious and LeBron-psyche-shaping shammgods of all time.
12 Isaiah Thomas
The baby-sized assassin (5'9) has a dirty handle, clean jimmy, and the unrestrained attitude you'd expect from a guy presumably beset by a Napoleon complex (once called himself “Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime”). The Cutthroat Cookie Crisp is the shortest player ever to record a triple-double and, among the East's PGs right now, ‘Saiah is 1st in PPG and 2nd in APG, causing veteran Jason Terry to pen an article arguing for his all-star selection. Isaiah's swaggiest moment came after being traded from the Suns to the Celtics when he single-handedly finished his former team while staring down their bench after every single bucket. Oh man.
11 Stephon "Starbury" Marbury
Starbury is a bonafide lunatic. His swag took a major hit with that Vaseline-eating video, but it really just speaks to how much the guy cared about getting buckets, and how much their nonexistence affects his mental state. Starbury looked out for the kids with $15 sneakers, gave himself an alley-oop around Vlade Divac, spun on passes... all day, and averaged 19 ppg in the NBA. Then, when his game weakened, an old Marbury went to China to write his swaggery into legend, winning multiple championships while celebrated by a statue, honorary citizenship from the Mayor of Beijing, postal stamps bearing his resemblance, a museum (House of Marbury), and a musical in his honor.
10 Rafer "Skip to My Lou" Alston
Rafer is a streetball legend. His antics across New York City spurred streetball's advent in the public eye, with his highlights essentially filling AND1's Mixtape Vol. 1. While Skip to My Lou had to tone down the skipping and flash a bit for the sake of NBA reliability, he was still able to toss some playground cement onto the hardwood while maintaining a solid career stat-line of 10 points and 5 assists. Skip, no stranger to defending streetball, defends swaggy play succinctly: “They can say this, that and the third about playground basketball, but I don’t think fans would even watch as much if not for that style of play.”
9 Jason Richardson
J-Rich, or Hov, was a recurring slam dunk champion, clutch bucketeer, and getting assists off of Carlos Boozer's forehead (only off-the-heezy in league history?) for the then-disparate Warriors. After Michael Jordan snatched him as the Bobcats' lifeline, Hov maintained his commitment to yams so big you’d think they were GMO while sharpening a long-range edge (17th most threes in NBA history) for the Suns, Magic, and 76ers. Swaggery is often ill-advised, and J-Rich might be the only person to ever get blocked on a 360 dunk. Unabashed commitment to show-time. In his early 30s, I tweeted asking if he could still 360, and he quickly responded. Swaggy ‘til the end, months before Hov’s retirement, a 34-year-old J-Rich dropped 29 for the always cloudy 76ers in Philadelphia.
8 Antoine "Employee #8" Walker
Antoine in the top 10 for swaggy play is a no-brainer when his voluminous game is coupled with the swaggiest basketball quote of all-time. 'Toine, who boasts career averages of 17.7 points and 7.7 boards, took a lot of threes despite a .325% career average and when asked why, he explained: "Because there are no fours." So simple. So bucket-focused. A 3x all-star, top 10 for FGM six times, top 10 for FGA seven times, and top 10 for turnovers in six seasons, Antoine liked shooting so much that sometimes other coaches would leave him open to start games because he’d follow up his hot start with 38 minutes of chucks. Confident to a fault? Such black-hole offense.
7 Gilbert "Hibachi" Arenas
Gil went from a homeless kid busting high-school-ball buttocks to a 3x all-star dubbed Agent Zero or Hibachi (Japanese BBQ device meaning “bowl of fire”) to a rich old dude busting YMCA-rec-league buttocks and crudely talking WNBA on Instagram. Gil's transformation spanned being a rookie Warrior bouncing oops to J-Rich, to a Wizards' star promising to drop 50+ on Nate McMillan and Mike D’Antoni’s teams because he didn’t like their FIBA World Championship roster thoughts (actually got 54 on the Suns). Off-court antics aplenty too: Gil got in trouble for a literal gun show with Javaris Crittenton, and his birthday party (dubbed the ‘Arenas Express’) cost $1 million and was hosted by Diddy.
6 Manu Ginobli
Manu’s flashy playing style is so G that he’s the first generation in his family not named Inobli. Before letting witness testimony conclude, I’ll just tell you that his passes have gone between the legs more often than a fast metabolism and that, after a bat interrupted play, Manu was so impatient to resume balling that he clocked it himself. Drake mentioned him in his “Jumpman” track, his coach Greg Popovich thinks ‘he could use a little less mustard,’ and Dwyane Wade described his embodiment of swaggy play perfectly: “You pretty much don’t know what he’s going to do ever. I don’t even know if he knows what he’s going to do.”
5 Jason "White Chocolate" Williams
Nobody knows if Jason Williams has ever thrown a routine chest-pass. After throwing oops to Randy Moss in High School, White Chocolate went on to a successful NBA career averaging 10.5 ppg, 5.9 apg (6.8 before he turned 30) and uncountable highlight plays. There was drama over his racialized nickname (Kings broadcasters were told not to use it), but when ESPN ran a poll to come up with an alternative, the winner was “Thrilla in Vanilla.” White Chocolate has the craziest pass of all-time: behind the back, and off the elbow, and he is still eating in pro-ams where he'll correct you if you thought a fly move was a travel.
4 Allen "The Answer" Iverson
Any of this top 5 could be the swaggiest of all time, and The Answer is no exception. AI has the 7th most PPG (26.7) and 4th most MPG (41.1) in NBA history, claimed to enter games with a ‘serial killer mentality,’ didn’t necessarily practice, was LeBron’s favorite player growing up, and former referee Tim Donaghy admitted that refs purposefully tried to skew games against him. Off-court he was arrested for ganja in ’97, dropped a rap album, and caused the NBA to change their dress codes. The Answer also once completely thwarted physics by being able to dribble a football better than most can a basketball.
3 Larry Bird
Larry's back was messed up, but could still support his team. Larry stared down his competition before a 3-point-contest (his 3rd straight victory) and asked: “Which one of you guys is coming second tonight?” Ball-boys would have to get him scoring records for different stadiums. After Kevin McHale broke the Celtics record for points in a game, Larry Legend broke it, dropping 60 within the week, even calling one shot “Rainbow! In the trainer’s lap,” and was actually pushed into the trainer’s lap. He would threaten to put players in the ‘torture chamber,’ was called ‘just money’ by Kobe, and Magic Johnson said he was the only player he ever ‘truly feared.’
2 Pistol Pete Maravich
Pistol grew up dribbling tennis balls in a pitch-black basement, originated flashy basketball, and died playing pick-up ball at 40. He’s the all-time leading scorer in the NCAA after averaging 44 for LSU (analysis estimates that with a 3-point-line he would’ve averaged 57). His NBA average was 24, and when asked about flashy passes he responded: “they don’t pay you a million dollars for two-hand chest passes.” An OG showman, Pistol once explained: "If I have a choice whether to do the show or throw a straight pass, and we're going to get the basket either way, I'm going to do the show."
1 Jamal Crawford
Recency effect comes into play here, but Jamal Crawford never did drills (“I don't do drills at all”), and has played strictly street-ball professionally for 16 years and counting. A lethal scorer, J-Crawf didn’t care about defense until he turned 34: "Honestly, this is the first time in my career where if I get scored on or if I make a defensive mistake, I'm like, 'Dang.'" J-Crawf’s career may have been stifled by coaching inconsistency (17 different coaches, 6th most in NBA history), but his unpredictable buckets have earned him the most 4-point-plays in NBA history and he is the 4th player to ever score 50 for three separate teams (the other three are all in the HOF). The guy gets respect from the entire league for treating the NBA like his summer pro-ams, and at 35 he’s still full of swag.