No other player in history impacted younger generations and inspired them to play basketball more than Michael Jordan. His presence, demeanor, and skill are something every kid aspired to emulate ever since MJ became a household name. From the unreal athleticism to unmatched skill in the post, you could pick apart every part of his game and try to implement it. But one of the better-known signature moves Jordan had was the post-fade-away shot. A beautiful and efficient shot that marked his career. It was a move so iconic and pretty that the late great Kobe Bryant mastered it to perfection and crafted the art of the fadeaway to the last detail.
But one of the minor signature abilities Jordan had that impacted his career in a big way was the size of his hands. That allowed him to palm the ball effortlessly with one hand and be a much more dangerous player on the court. It made his fakes, combos, and moves much more unpredictable and harder to stop. It looked awesome and created numerous iconic highlights; as you could argue, those hands gave him a noticeable advantage on the court.
Many players tried to emulate Jordan’s handwork but didn’t have the pure intangibles to pull it off. But one of the ones who managed to do it and perform it with style was Nick Van Exel. “Nick the Quick” was never a star player in the NBA but was still one of the fan-favorites due to his flashy style of play and swagger on the court. The fact he had big hands allowed Exel to use it to his advantage for performing spectacular moves and fakes, just like MJ did.
Even though you could speculate Van Exel saw Jordan and implemented the ball fakes into his bag because of MJ, especially because Nick entered the NBA in 1993, after Jordan’s first three-peat, that isn’t the case. Van Exel denied that notion while talking on the Knuckleheads podcast, as he admitted it wasn’t MJ but Julius Erving who inspired him:
“You know that was actually Dr. J. Beacuse Dr.J. had the mitts, and I would always see Dr.J. doing this. So that’s where I got that from. Every time I shaked Dr. J.’s hand, I be like God Damn Doc!”Nick Van Exel, Knuckleheads Podcast
Old-school fans need no introduction to Julius Erving, as Dr.J. was one of the first athletic phenoms the NBA had ever seen. The mix of size, athleticism, and grace made the Doctor everybody’s favorite player growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. One of those kids was Michael Jordan himself, who admitted numerous times he looked up to Julius Erving. The craftiness and jumping ability were beautiful to watch, as Van Exel had to acknowledge he wanted to be like Julius and not Jordan. But looking at these highlights, who can blame him. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong emulating either one of those two greats.