Anyone can dribble a basketball. But few can do it like that.

There is hardly a more exciting game in basketball. A player hits the ball up and down with eyes that turn left and right, deciding on ...


There is hardly a more exciting game in basketball.

A player hits the ball up and down with eyes that turn left and right, deciding on a point of attack. The player feints with one hand and leans that way, so the defender calls. The ball goes the other way and the unfortunate defender slips or, in an even more embarrassing result, falls. The crowd ooh and aah.

Few basketball skills require more constant creativity than handling the ball. Opportunities for flashy dunks and spectacular passes come and go. But innovative ball handling is a constant need, especially in the NBA, where athletic defenders are ready to shut down every point of attack.

This year’s NBA playoffs featured some of the best dribblers in basketball history, including Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry. The curry creates space for the 3 deep points while the defenders attack him. harden defender baits fouling him all over the field. Irving is a wizard at wrong directions and rotational movements to get to the rim. Paul kicks the ball as if on a string. All four can pass defenders easily.

The New York Times asked three generational dribblers to discuss ball handling: God Shammgod, Tim Hardaway and Oscar Robertson.

Shammgod, an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks, had a brief NBA career, but his dribbling has become a tradition on the outdoor courts of New York. His signature move – the Shammgod crossover, in which he pushes the ball forward with one hand and then shoots it with the other – influenced a generation of players.

Hardaway, who played in the NBA from 1989 to 2003, was one of the league’s top point guards. His notable move was a double crossover called the UTEP Two Stagesnodding to the college he played for, the University of Texas at El Paso.

Robertson, a Hall of Famer and the first player to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season, was an early purveyor of crossover dribbling in the 1960s.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

SHAMMGOD Mostly imaginary. I’m just learning to handle the ball and handle the angles. To be an elite dribbler, I would say you have to know how to use your body, use your footwork. Because dribbling is footwork.

HARDAWAY Do not return the ball. To be under control. Know when to take your man and how to prepare your man.

ROBERTSON experience and time. I started playing when I was young. I was a guard. I started hammering the ball, dribbling and making a lot of mistakes. And then, literally, you get involved and you learn about different players, and what they’re trying to do to you. And you have the confidence to walk into anyone’s house.

SHAMMGOD It changed a lot by hiring different coaches to help. I like to say there’s a difference between teaching someone to move and teaching someone to dribble. Most people, when they come to work with someone, want to learn movements. They want to learn the Tim Hardaway UTEP Two Step. They want to learn Shammgod crossover or [Allen] Iverson crossing. But for me, it’s really not dribbling. It is learning to make movements.

HARDAWAY You know, back when we were playing, there weren’t a lot of cameras. There were no social networks. So now they’re grabbing every little treat from every angle, so there can be five different angles where you see a guy shaking his man and getting to the hole or passing someone and getting to the hole. Five different angles where you see the guy slip or fall.

ROBERTSON Guys who can handle and dribble the ball are the most successful athletes. If you can’t dribble the ball around anyone, you won’t do very well in basketball..

SHAMMGOD Growing up, I used to watch every dribbling move I could imagine. And then I was going to train in slow motion. I would have two pound ankle weights on my wrist.

I was dribbling in slow motion. I was watching the movie in slow motion so I could see the point guard’s footwork or how he made a move. And then the biggest thing for me is when I used to take the weights off my wrist, it’s like when you hit with wrist weights. You take them out of your hands, they fly everywhere.

HARDAWAY I’m from Chicago. My parents’ basement wasn’t finished, so I used to go down there when it was cold outside. I used to just get down and dribble and work on my game. Dribbling, pretending the man was in front of me. Movements in and out between my legs, crossings behind my back – I spent hours down there at a time. Just dribble, dribble, dribble.

ROBERTSON I was just watching the guys I played with in Indianapolis, a place called the Dust Bowl, which was outdoors. It was on concrete, but they called it the dustbin. And there were very good basketball players. It’s almost unbelievable. I’m sure they have these players in all parts of the country who played well outside but didn’t do very well when they came inside.

SHAMMGOD Of course, those that come easily to mind: Kyrie. Steph. James Harden, Chris Paul.

HARDAWAY I grew up watching a great person named Isiah Thomas, a great ball handler. It happened to me. And then he moved on to Rod Strickland. Oh man, Rod Strickland had some crazy grips that no one even recognizes anymore. And then, you know, there were guys coming after us. Shammgod. And he’s out of New York. Derrick Rose had some nice grips from Chicago. Then you look at these guys. Chris Paul, you know, at 37, continuing to do what he does with the ball is incredible. Of course Kyrie. Stephen Curry, [Ja] Morant. James Harder.

ROBERTSON I think Curry is very good at handling basketball. And also Ja Morant.

They understand what the defense is trying to do to them. When you go out, you have to control your speed. To some extent, you can’t go 100 miles an hour because you don’t want to pass anyone. So these guys come in, they watch the defense.

SHAMMGOD The game against Rutgers University. It was against Geoff Billet at Madison Square Garden to [1997] Great East Tournament. It was on the right side of the yard. That’s when I took the first step. I threw him to the basket and he tried to run to steal the ball. And the only thing I could do was shoot it on my left hand.

HARDAWAY It’s a crazy story. I’m driving and my son said, “Dad, I know you don’t like talking in the car on your way to the game. But I want to ask you. Everyone is talking about the crossover. What is a crossover? »

I said, “Boy, have you ever seen me do the crossover?” He said no!” I said, “OK, I see him, but you can’t go anywhere. You have to stay where you are. Because he liked to roam and walk around. play PlayStation and all this and all that. I say, “You have to stay in your seat the whole game. At half-time, you go to the bathroom. Other than that, you have to stay in your seat the whole game. because I don’t know when it’s gonna happen, but I guarantee you it’s gonna happen.

And of course, like the second game of the game against the New York Knicks, Game 7 [of the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals]. I came down and said, “I’m going to point my finger at you. And I made a cross, put it down and pointed at it. I could see him jumping up and down, point blank, saying, “Yeah, OK, I see it. I get it.” So it was one of those memorable moments where you were talking to your son and then showing him in action what crossover was and how you did it.

ROBERTSON I haven’t thought of that, to be honest.

SHAMMGOD I think it’s art to the max. It’s crazy, because right now, even if you say my name in a dictionary, it won’t evoke me. It will show movement and it will show how the movement is performed.

HARDAWAY Man, it’s like the rhythm. It’s like dancing. Isiah did. Nate Archibald did. I used to do that. Dribbling a ball is like dancing and following the rhythm of a song. And if you look at Kyrie, that’s how he dribble. If you look at Rod Strickland, that’s how he dribble.

You watch Kemba Walker and if you watch Steph Curry, it’s like you’re dribbling to the beat of a song. When you see those basketball commercials and they bounce a ball, it’s like going to the beat of the song. It’s like that. And it’s just gracefully just moving with the basketball and really having that confidence that nobody can keep you from. Nobody can stick with you, and you walk around them and look them in their eyes, and you’ll see this fear in their eyes, “Damn, I’m in trouble.” This is the art of dribbling.

ROBERTSON I just think you either have it or you don’t.

Source photographs: Focus on Sport/Getty Images; Joe Murphy/NBAE, via Getty Images; Dale Tait/NBAE, via Getty Images; Jeff Chiu/Associated Press; Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters; Daniel Dunn/USA Today Sports, via Reuters; Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

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