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"Done correctly, almost impossible to stop" — the step-back innovator talks about the genesis of his imitated move

Before it was called the stepback jumper, it was called the "Kiki Move," and it came out of necessity.
UCLA Bruins forward Kiki Vandeweghe

KiKi VanDeWeghe

James Harden. Luka Doncic. These are the names that come to mind whenever we discuss the famous stepback jumper. But let’s note that while these players made the move famous, they weren’t the ones who invented it. And it wasn’t called the stepback jumper, too. It was called the “Kiki Move,” named after KiKi VanDeWeghe, the two-time All-Star who first unveiled it.

The Kiki Move

According to VanDeWeghe, the move came out of necessity rather than fancy. He wasn’t like a mad scientist who locked himself into a laboratory, trying to develop the deadliest basketball move known to man. He came up with it after his body had taken a rough beating. Kiki still wanted to contribute, and the stepback move made this possible.

My go-to move was really — and it changed over the course of my career because I started off as a driver. And as a lot of players do, I drove to the basket, I crashed into people. But then something strange happened. As I got older, I slowed down a little bit. I kinda got beat up, I hurt my back. And my go-to move became a stepback move. That was really my signature move in the latter part of my career, where you step towards somebody, really step back, and shoot a jump shot. Done correctly, almost impossible to stop,” said Kiki VanDeWeghe.

VanDeWeghe didn’t spam the move like most young players today. This is the reason why there aren’t many clips of the dreaded Kiki Move available online. Perhaps it became something like Allen Iverson’s crossover. In his first few years in the league, he used the move literally on anyone. But as the years went on, The Answer became aware that everyone was on the lookout for it. And so it only unleashed it once in a blue moon.

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Early imitators

VanDeWeghe averaged as much as 29.4 points per game in the regular season and 28 points in the playoffs. These numbers were more than enough for his colleagues to take notice of his scoring technique. Among his contemporaries were the legends Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Bird, a player known for his craft and wit, utilized the stepback jumper a few times in his career.

It was Jordan who fully integrated it into his offensive arsenal. Notice that MJ combined it with his signature fadeaway shot. After those moves, Jordan was miles away from his defender.

We cannot discuss Jordan without mentioning the late Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba also included the stepback jump shot into his offensive toolbox. Like Jordan, when Bryant created space, he usually remained inside the perimeter. This is contrary to Harden and Doncic, who go from behind the line.

Another interesting point about Kobe’s stepback is that he sometimes punctuates it with a one-legged fadeaway — Dirk Nowitzki’s signature move. During Kobe’s jersey retirement ceremony, he gave a shout-out to those existing jerseys already up the rafters. This was his shoutout to history. Bryant knows that he owes so much to those that came before him. In the same vein, we, too, should be conscious that before the stepback, there was the “Kiki Move.”

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