10 Greatest NBA Signature Shots & Moves

NBA Dream Shake

Hakeem Olajuwon’s Dream Shake

No other team sport celebrates an unparalleled combination of individual creativity and athletic excellence like NBA basketball.

Signature shots and moves, developed, honed and made famous by accomplished NBA basketball players, memorialize their impact on the sport. They leave a lasting legacy of fun, excitement and enviable skill for basketball fans to enjoy.

In this chapter, I’ve focused on what I believe are the basketball’s 10 greatest signature shots and moves. They’re all instantly identifiable because they were birthed by perennial All-Stars and NBA Hall of Fame players.

These highly skilled athletes transformed the pro game into a fast-paced, high-flying and super-entertaining sport.

Here’s my list:

10. Cross-over Dribble – Initially admired when Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy crossed over opponents in the 1950s, this signature move soon catapulted to an entirely new level. Tim Hardaway shaked and baked his way past would-be defenders in the 1980s. Then, Allen Iverson froze and flummoxed opposing guards in the 1990s. Now, Kyrie Irving carries on the “ankle breaking” tradition of the cross-over move as a modern day NBA star.

9. Pick ‘n Roll – The standard for the pick and roll has been, and will probably always be, John Stockton and Karl Malone. Better than any other combo in the history of the sport, these two NBA Hall of Famers effortlessly, efficiently and successfully executed the pick and roll in all their years together in Utah.

8. Tear Drop – Many shorter guards have tried this soft shot close to the basket while longer, athletic shot blockers have attempted to swat it away. However, speedy NBA All-Star Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs has perfected his gentle flick of the basketball. It descends from its highest point of release like a tear gently dropping from an eye and tickles the twine as it passes through the cylinder.

7. Step Back Jumper – Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Reggie Miller, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, are to be praised for the picture perfect form of their step-back jumpers.

However, no one in NBA history shot it as often and on the biggest stages of the NBA Playoffs as 3-time NBA MVP and 3-time NBA Champion Larry Bird.

Former Boston Celtic Larry Bird

NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird

6. Fade Away Jumper – Only one NBA player should come to mind when referencing the best fade away jumper of all time – and that’s Michael Jordan. MJ perfected this un-guardable shot which he used brilliantly in winning six NBA titles during an illustrious career that will never fade away.

5. Windmill Dunk – The windmill dunk was only one of an assortment of exciting, gravity-defying flushes popularized by one of the greatest NBA leapers of all-time, Dominique Wilkins. This former Atlanta Hawks all-star’s dunking ability was so prolific that his dunks and overall athletic play led to Wilkins’ clever nickname The Human Highlight Reel.

Human Highlight Reel Dominique Wilkins

Former Atlanta Hawks’ Dominique Wilkins

4. Sky Hook – The NBA’s greatest scorer ever birthed the nickname of this shot by perfecting an unstoppable move. Kareem Abdul Jabbar of the LA Lakers effortlessly released the ball high over helpless defenders who appeared glued to the hardwood, unable to block his shot attempt. ESPN boldly called the sky hook the deadliest shot the NBA has ever seen. #33 could unleash his un-guardable shot whenever, wherever, however and on whomever he faced on basketball courts across America.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s iconic Sky Hook

3. Finger Roll – One of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, George Gervin, or The Ice Man’s brilliant stroke and dizzying array of shots made him impossible to guard. At 6’7” Gervin was too long for shorter guards to cover as he easily shot over them. At 185 lbs. Gervin was also too quick and athletic for taller players to guard. Gervin easily drove by bigger opponents and finished his drives with a stop-on-a-dime pull-up jumper, a fluid reverse lay-up or his famous finger-roll signature shot from just about anywhere in the lane.

2. No Look Pass – This patented pass play will always be associated with the over-sized point guard known as Magic. At 6’9”, Earvin Magic Johnson’s brilliant court vision, athleticism and exceptional ball-handling ability made him one of the most prolific passers in NBA history. Skilled at running the fast break for the fast-paced LA Lakers Showtime attack, Magic’s no look passes regularly found fellow NBA All-Stars as they finished the Showtime break before celebrity fans in the old Forum with a dunk or easy lay-up.

Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson

NBA legend Earvin Magic Johnson

1. Dream Shake – Hakeem Olajuwon used a string of spins, fakes and twists that became known as the Dream Shake. Hakeem’s unstoppable move resulted in either an unguarded fade away jump shot or a fast, explosive move to the basket. “Un-guardable,” claimed rival big man and two-time NBA champion David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs when referencing Olajuwon.

Olajuwon credits the great footwork he learned as a youth playing soccer in Nigeria. This childhood skill added to the amazing success of his Dream Shake move during his decorated 18 year NBA career.

No other sport like basketball has given rise to such incredible individuality in a team sport.

That’s why these signature shots also deserve to be included in my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.

FREE Best About Sports

Email me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com if there’s a signature shot or move that you feel should be on this list too.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

Basketball footer


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