Ever since 2015 it was pretty obvious that times had changed and the NBA entered a new era. An era in which the backcourt – especially the point guard, would be the cornerstone of a team’s offense and overall image. Those two particular positions tend to have possession of the ball for way longer than a power-forward for example. Consequently attracting a lot of attention. Just the amount of short videos on Facebook alone speaks volumes. People would go nuts over an individual play while sweeping the team’s loss under the rug.
Thinking about those highlight reels – what moves are usually included? Of course, the good ol’ dunk. Then comes the clutch shot, the fadeaway, the crossover, the perfect finish to the rim and the smooth but lucky pass. But ever since the guards have been getting so much attention a new move has been added – the step-back shot. Go play any highlights of an older player like Kidd, Allen, Iverson etc. and try to find more than one or two step-backs. Then play the reels of a modern day guard.
So, to pay homage to the star move we will examine the top 10 players with the best step-backs in the league. The following list will be based on couple of factors: frequency of usage, versatility of scoring, positioning and last but not least – nastiness. The last one is a little dubious but let’s say it is a mixture flashiness, good handles and signature move of a player.
10. Derrick Rose
To be honest with our readers, this one is more of an honorable mention than an actual ranking. For a player who has had so many injuries and set-backs Rose still makes the list for what he used to do on the court. Back when he was known as the Windy City Assassin the step-back was a major part of his game. As Stacey King would ecstatically say: “He is not afraid of that last shot!” And he truly wasn’t. Unfortunately, Rose lost his flashiness and most of his offensive arsenal. But still, he is in the league and deserves to be on the list.
9. Jimmy Butler
At number 9 comes the most recent yet former Windy City Assassin. Now, part of the Minnesota Timberwolves Jimmy Butler is sharing the ball with two of the best young players out there – Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. In all fairness, Butler’s game has changed a bit because of his new role on a different team. He is no longer that all-star player who carries the entire offense. Therefore his performance altered – the step-backs turned into cuts to the basket or just spot up mid-rangers. But we all know why he makes the list.
8. Kevin Durant
For people who watch ESPN’s ‘First Take’ the following would be somewhat familiar. He is a seven feet tall with a 7ft 6in wingspan and can drop 30 points in his sleep. Indeed Stephen A Smith’s description of Kevin Durant is spot on. And his on court skills make the list too. Interesting enough, the step-back is part of KD’s arsenal even though it’s not quite conventional. It’s more of a mixture between a fadeaway and a normal jumper. The whole move suits Durant because of his height. It gives him an incredible advantage as opponents may not realize he is not posting them up but will shoot instead. Number 35 for Golden State gets the eight spot due to the fact his game is dominated by sharp shooting and plays at the rim rather than too much ball dribbling. Plus KD usually uses the step-back near or in the paint – and to make it to the top of the list you need versatility.
7. LeBron James
After number two in the NBA comes number one. Fifteenth season or not Lebron James is balling on both end of the court. His skills are on such a level he played the point guard position for several games early in the season. Speaking of which the King is no stranger to the step-back shot. Unlike Kevin Durant, he uses it mostly for three pointers in order to create a separation. This season we are seeing him use it a lot more in comparison to his early Cleveland or Miami days. His spot on the list is at number 7 for two main reasons – it’s hard to see Lebron James make step-backs from the two point range. And although we are talking about the best player in the NBA he does make mistakes. Like stepping on the arch’s line when he takes the shot.
6. Bradley Beal
The shooting guard for the Washington Wizards deserves a lot more credit than he is getting. He has managed to grow substantially in his last couple of season. Fans now recognize his style of play and one move particular– the step-back. Beal is the first on the list who uses the step-back with versatility and high frequency. He uses it to score both on the perimeter and near the paint area. However, the other players on the list are better known for their nasty step-backs, being fast and clutch. Something Beal hasn’t been quite consistent with.
5. Damian Lilard
The top five part of this list is very subjective as the players have all the tricks up their sleeves. So Damian Lilard will take spot number five. The star point guard rises one head above the competition due to his impressive ball handling and speed. The step-back is a move he loves to make when he faces the rim from the side, combining it with a small fadeaway. By the way, Lilard is not afraid to take the last shot and usually uses a step-back in order to get it off. Dame DOLLA is placed at number 5 because the next four have accumulated a lot more hype than him. Which is a shame considering his capabilities and playing style.
4. Stephen Curry
In a sense, it is the two-time MVP who made the step-back move ‘viral’. Curry brought massive attention to the step-back because of all of his shooting highlights. In order to get himself into a shooting position he makes a quick one-two to sink the dagger three. His high place is based on the quickness and high efficiency with which he makes these step-backs. A big bonus is the fact that he can do it all over the court without too much dribbling – an essential part of the Warriors offense.
3. Kemba Walker
Walker sits at number three as he is the first from the list to be known mostly because for his step-back. Pages on social media love to repost over and over a nasty step-back he pulled off back in UConn. It’s obvious why! Walker is a point guard who keeps an eye on who is guarding him and moves accordingly. He rushes forwards then uses his right foot to jab thus making his opponent lean in that direction. Then Kemba would use his left foot to pull back thereby creating separation to take the shot. And that quick maneuver makes the whole move nasty! The sole criterion we are looking for in the top spots.
2. Kyrie Irving
Uncle Drew is also revered on social media for his nasty play style. And he is no stranger to the step-back. His rise to stardom was heavily based on his incredible handles and ability to make great shots. Now wearing a Boston Celtics jersey Irving remains the best handler in the game. His masterful dribbling accompanied by a quick step-back gets buckets. Period.
1. James Harden
The number one spot rightfully goes to the 2016-17 MVP runner-up James Harden. The Beard is putting on an offensive show for the Houston Rockets whenever he gets the ball. His step-back makes the top of the list for several simple reasons. Versatility as Harden can make the step-back when he receive a pass or when he plays individually. He has a smoothness in his jump like no other making the entire process look like a practice shot. Unlike players like Kemba who has pushed the ‘art of step-back’ to the limit Harden makes it a lot less dazzling. However, he tricks his defenders with ease and is able to do get his shot to go with quite less effort.