The Top-Five Ballhandlers of the NBA’s Modern Era
Many aspects of basketball have changed throughout the decades as new rules, playing styles, and metric-based strategies have developed to give teams the best chance to win – and provide the highest-quality of entertainment. Ballhandling is one aspect that’s changed and grown as new moves and skill sets have been invented, but it’s always been a crucial and invaluable strength on the offensive end of the court. Players who can handle the basketball at a world-class level are more fun to watch and more dangerous running the floor than all else. Here are our top-five ballhandlers of the modern NBA who are already attaining legendary status for their ability to handle the rock.
5. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is the most effective true point guard on the planet today. He has consistently used his world-class ballhandling and basketball IQ to wreak havoc on opposing defenses since entering the league in 2005 and has essentially mastered the pick-and-roll over that timespan, using his dribble to manipulate defenders and open passing lanes for bigs. CP3 has always preferred control over flare when handling the ball, resulting in a much tighter and more secure handle than his flashier counterparts, though it does produce less highlight reel plays. But he doesn’t care, and neither do Rockets fans. Paul is historically good at protecting the ball and only uses his moves when necessary, often lulling defenders to sleep before humiliating them to no end.
4. Jason Williams
Despite sometimes being too flashy for his own good, Jason Williams was still on many occasions as entertaining a player as there was in the NBA. While he wasn’t a star player, he will long be remembered for his ability to handle and pass the ball. His passing ability has been compared to that of Magic Johnson and he was one of the earliest players responsible for bringing a streetball flair into the league after being drafted 7th overall in the ’98 draft. Coaches of the teams he played for didn’t always love his style of play due to frequent turnovers or missed passes that should have been easy, but kids in driveways everywhere could be seen emulating the one known as “White Chocolate.”
3. Steph Curry
It’s tough to believe Steph Curry has already been in the league for nine seasons, but he’s accomplished a career’s worth of accolades in that time. In addition to being the best outside shooter the game has ever seen, Steph possesses a handle rivaled by very few in today’s league. And it’s his shooting, in fact, that makes him such a deadly threat off the bounce. Defenders who step up on Steph behind the three point line are likely to find themselves burned an instant later by a behind the back dribble or a lightning-quick crossover. His quick release combined with his ability to change direction and put defenders in a blender has made him one of the league’s top attractions since the Warriors drafted him in 2009. With arguably the best supporting cast in NBA history, Steph is poised to continue making waves for the foreseeable future.
2. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson had such a massive cultural impact on the game that it would be easy to forget how simply iconic his ballhandling ability was. But most don’t forget. His killer crossover and confidence on the court made him a fan-favorite during his time in Philly and solidified him as one of the best ballhandlers the game has ever seen. AI also changed the way players presented themselves on the court. He was the first player to ever wear a shooting sleeve – an accessory he donned during the 2000-01 season as he was recovering from bursitis in his right elbow. Today, players from grade school to the pros wear shooting sleeves as a stylistic touch more than anything else.
Two of the most defining moments in AI’s career are also a couple of the greatest moments in NBA history. In a game against the 55-8 Bulls during his rookie season, AI scored 37 points and crossed over Michael Jordan for what marked an arrival moment for the young star.
Then, in the 2001 playoffs, Iverson crossed over Tyronn Lue and buried a jumper in his face before stepping over him and staring him down on his way back on defense. Simply put, Iverson oozed a swagger we’ve not since seen in the NBA.
1. Kyrie Irving
Today’s NBA fans know all about Kyrie’s ability to make defenders look silly. His knack for switching directions on a dime and dribbling through tight traffic to finish at the rim are simply not rivaled in today’s modern league. He possesses the most complete arsenal of moves on the court today, consistently churning out highlight reel moves against the NBA’s most elite defenders, having earned himself the nickname “the Unguardable Guard.” Kyrie thrives on his unpredictability and is as naturally gifted a playmaker as there is. The best part is – he’s just getting started.
Footing and balance are essential to becoming a great ballhandler. Too many players wear down the grip and performance of their basketball shoes by exposing them to the elements on their way to and from the court. Don’t be one of those players. The FY-DENY is the only way to protect your basketball shoes from wear and to preserve the grip that will have you breaking everyone else’s ankles – not your own. Shop our products today to take your ballhandling above and beyond.