When you play basketball your entire life, it is inevitable that you develop your own style and particular moves. NBA players have spent countless hours of their lives in the gym, either developing their own unstoppable moves through practicing them time and time again, or trying them out against opposition in a pick up game or 1 on 1. Over the years many NBA players have developed their own trademark moves that are so effective, that even the greatest defenders are left mere spectators as they pull them off in the key moments of games. The defender will often know what is coming, but the move is so well polished that there is little you can do to stop it. Of course every player needs a variety of weapons in their arsenal to keep the defender on their toes, but the trademark move will be their bread and butter and one they are likely to use when they need to gain the upper hand.
The beauty of basketball is that it is an incredibly stylish and creative sport, and it is a great way for you to show off your individuality. You first need to polish the fundamentals such as a jumpshot, layups, passing, dribbling, shielding the ball, rebounding and defensive positioning. Once you have these elements down, you can then begin to experiment and have some fun with your play. You can develop your own style of crossover, add pump fakes, dribble the ball around your back plus plenty more. This is how these trademark moves have been developed, and there will always be new moves being created as the possibilities are endless.
These trademark moves become synonymous with the player, and if you were to walk onto any court around the world then you will find aspiring players trying to recreate these signature moves which everyone loves to see. When players get to grips with these moves, they can then tweak them and add/subtract elements to make them their own personal weapon.
Here are the top 10 trademark moves of all-time.
10 Tim Duncan – Bank Shot
As this list will demonstrate, most trademark moves have an element of flash or showmanship. This is not Tim Duncan’s style however, which instead is well polished fundamentals (hence the nickname “The Big Fundamental”). This is not to say that Duncan is boring, as his intelligence and craft make him a joy to watch and he is perhaps the greatest power forward to play the game. He has a few unstoppable moves in his arsenal, but none as signature as the bank shot. Very few players use the glass in the modern era, and when they do they will call out “bank” to let everyone know that it was done on purpose.
When Duncan turns and faces on the block (particularly the left) you know what is coming, and the bank is always open for him thanks to hours of practice and a soft touch. He might throw in some jab-steps or pump fakes to throw off his defender, but the result will always be the same and no player has ever used the glass quite like Timmy.
9 Manu Ginobli – Euro Step
Manu Ginobli may not have been the first player to utilise the Euro Step, but he certainly popularised it in North America and he has perfected the move to make him almost unstoppable when attacking the paint. The move is relatively new to the NBA, leaving many scratching their head wondering whether it is legal or not. In many cases it is a travel, but Ginobli’s version is (usually) a legal move and a great way to evade a defender and get a layup.
Instead of picking up his dribble and taking the two permitted steps in a straight line towards the basket, Argentinean Ginobli takes a step in one direction, but he will then quickly take the second step in the other direction and protect the ball to create space between himself and the defender. This is particularly helpful for smaller players when they come up against the taller defenders, and is a move now widely used by the likes of Dwyane Wade, James Harden and John Wall. The move had been seen before, but when Ginobli arrived from the Italian league and began using it to such effect it quickly became a popular and much imitated move.
8 Shaquille O’Neal – Black Tornado
In his prime, Shaq was an unstoppable force in the post. It is easy to remember him as the player who struggled to get up and down the court in his later years, but in his Orlando and Los Angeles days he was fast, mobile and had terrific footwork. One of his trademark moves, which he of course named himself, was the “Black Tornado”. Due to the size of Shaq, those guarding him in the post would lean and put a lot of their body weight on him to try and keep him away from the basket. Shaq would use their own strength against them by gauging which side they were pressing and wait for them to bump him back, and then he would use his (enormous) momentum to spin the other way by quickly rotating his shoulders and spinning towards the basket. If the defender managed to stand their ground he would often continue to pivot until he was close enough to the basket. Here, he would of course throw down a thunderous dunk and was often fouled in the process by those caught up in his tornado.
7 Allen Iverson – Crossover
Iverson may not have been the first to revolutionize the crossover dribble (more on this later), but he did take the basketball world by storm with his version which is still copied by kids on the playground through to the pros. AI helped bring basketball from the streets to the NBA, and this brought plenty of excitement and creativity to the hardwood which had not been seen before. For this crossover he would move the ball out wide to one side and lean with his whole body in this direction as if he was about to drive to the basket on that side, and he would then quickly cross the ball over very low to the ground and explode past his defender.
The key to Iverson’s crossover was that he moved the ball out very wide and even used his head to fake in one direction to get the defender off balance, and the crossover was then very low so that the defender was unable to get a hand on the ball (if they were not on the floor by this point).
6 George Gervin – The Finger Roll
The finger roll has become such a commonly used move in today’s game that it falls under the basic group of moves, but it was first developed by George “The Iceman” Gervin back in the 1970s. Prior to this, when attacking the basket players would lay the ball up similarly to a jump shot with their hand behind the ball. Gervin would change the game and bring grace and style to the layup by introducing the finger roll, where when attacking the basket he would have his hand under the ball and allow it to roll along his fingertips and into the hoop. The move looked so impressive that soon everyone was copying The Iceman, and nowadays many players find the finger roll easier than a traditional layup.
5 Magic Johnson – No-Look Pass
Although he wasn’t the first, Magic Johnson is famous for bringing flash to the NBA and helped to create the “Showtime” Lakers which was a fast passed, creative and fun brand of basketball. Integral to this was the no-look pass, where Magic would dribble the ball, look at one of his teammates as if he were about to pass him the ball, before passing to another teammate usually located on the other side of the court. By looking away from where the ball was about to go, it caught defenders off guard and they would often adjust to where he was looking (leaving the recipient wide open for a shot). Magic will of course have seen the player way before this and know where he is located, but you must possess exceptional vision and passing ability to pull this off.
This trademark from Magic was flashy, effective and done at high speeds, and many players attempt this nowadays but will first pass the ball and then look away. This isn’t fooling anyone, and particularly the master himself.
4 Tim Hardaway – Killer Crossover
Handling the basketball has become an artform over the years, with dozens of players revolutionising the game with their flashy moves. The crossover is a simple move where a player crosses the ball from one hand to the other, and many players use and expand on this move to take their opponent off the dribble. Before Allen Iverson was breaking ankles with his famous crossover, Tim Hardaway was leaving players in his wake with a move known as the “Killer Crossover” or “UTEP Two-Step”. Tim Hardaway, or Mr Crossover, would bounce the ball between his legs as if he was going to change direction, and then in a flash he would cross back over and explode to the hoop. The speed which he did this at was breathtaking, and plenty of point guards have added this move to their arsenal, but none have mastered it quite like Hardaway.
3 Hakeem Olajuwon – The Dream Shake
Hakeem “The Dream” is one of the all-time great centers and perhaps the most creative Big Man to ever grace the hardwood. He would bamboozle defenders with his huge array of pump fakes, drop steps, pivots, jab steps and head fakes, and he also possessed phenomenal footwork for a 7-footer. “The Dream Shake” became a trademark move which would have everyone up on their feet, and many defenders were left caught up in this crafty and dazzling move. The move involves going baseline where he would then fake a pass or reverse layup by pushing the ball out with one hand, before spinning back and using a pump fake (the defender would usually bite here), pivoting again with the same foot and stepping past the defender before finishing at the rim. The footwork is key here and involves three different pivots to get basket side of the defender. Hakeem also possessed dozens of variations and counter moves which left most defenders completely helpless, most notably David Robinson.
2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – The Skyhook
It is incredibly difficult to contest a 7-foot player shooting the ball, but Kareem made it completely impossible with his patented “Skyhook” move. The image of him shooting this amazing shot has become iconic, and all the Big Men (and some guards) have attempted to master the shot but not many have succeeded (settling for a “Baby Hook”). The hook shot was already a key move in the game, and this was thanks largely to George Mikan. Kareem took this shot to the next level, and worked at it tirelessly until it became a high percentage look.
Unlike a jump shot, the Skyhook sees you have your shoulders perpendicular to the basket, creating distance between the ball and the defender. Then, in one continuous motion, Abdul-Jabbar would bring the ball up from his side whilst shielding with his other arm, before releasing with a hook shot at the very top of his reach and over his shoulder. At 7-foot-2, the point of release was so high and he created so much distance between the ball and the defender that it was impossible to guard and was used to devastating effect.
1 Michael Jordan – The MJ Fadeaway
There is no player replicated more than Michael Jordan, and his influence is still felt around the entire world. From kids in the park all the way through to the pros, people are still trying to harness his trademark moves (with some going as far as sticking their tongue out like “His Airness” famously did). Of all his trademark moves, there is none as iconic as the MJ Fadeaway. This has notably been borrowed by Kobe, T-Mac, Wade, Carmelo and LeBron, but none use it quite so effectively and consistently as MJ.
The move was both beautiful and absolutely devastating, and he used it time and time again and in key moments of the big games. With his back to the basket, Jordan would back his man down until he reached the mid-range area, where he would then bump his defender and throw a shoulder fake as if he was going for a drop-step (another trademark move), and this created enough separation for him to then turn back and hit a stunning, high arching shot falling away from the basket. With this, the drop step, and dozens of variations of both, Jordan became as lethal in the post as he was on the perimeter. This became crucial in the later stages of his career where he lost some explosiveness.