Many are still buzzing about it, but history, as well as most of the old-timers, has ingrained in us that you've got to possess both talent and physical strength to stand out in the 80s and the 90s era. Over time, it became a cliché, but if you think about it, only a few select managed to do the above and put their imprint on the game. One of them was five-time NBA All-Star and recently-inducted Hall of Famer Tim Hardaway Sr.
Indeed, not all notable players earn a moniker in the NBA based on the most coveted skill in their bag. In some instances, players earn one for some other reason outside basketball. But in Hardaway’s case, “Mr. Crossover” wasn’t just a nickname that the media came up with to add hype to his soaring career. Instead, it was derived from a signature move that he did on a regular basis, a fancy yet deadly weapon in his arsenal that even his predecessors acknowledged.
As we all know, Detroit Pistons' all-time great Isiah Thomas was already breaking ankles when Hardaway was still making bones in the sport. However, Thomas admitted he knew right there and then that “Tim Bug” would take the crossover move to a whole new level when he saw a young Hardaway pull it off as a high school prodigy.
“In Chicago, I was known for the between the legs dribble,” Thomas recently told Andscape. “And then I saw Tim when he was in high school at a Christmas holiday tournament that I came back to as one of the special guests. Not only did Tim have the in-between the legs, but he added a crossover to it. We all played with the crossover, but none of us made it a staple piece to your move.”
The rightful king
Fair enough, Hardaway takes pride in being credited for inventing the killer crossover. In fact, he once said that his style was better than Allen Iverson’s, the other Hall of Famer who also made the move famous. As a handles legend himself, Zeke put an end to the debate and hailed Hardaway as the rightful “King of Crossover.”
“When Tim hit you with the between the legs and then he would come back and give you the crossover, he had such style and flair with it,” Thomas raved. “Not only was it such a difficult move to guard, but it was very pretty. He had moxie, attitude, and confidence that went with it also. He takes the name and the crown as the ‘King of the Crossover.’ Allen Iverson came in and had a different stutter-step crossover. But Hardaway’s crossover is a staple of everyone’s moves right now.”
Remember the name
In the last three decades, the crossover move has drastically evolved. From Hardaway’s low and lethal between the legs, Jamal Crawford and Kyrie Irving innovated it by adding some behind-the-backs and hops on it. But for “Tim Bug,” there’s no substitute for the real, and no matter how we slice it, it’s his name that will be associated with the crossover move forever.
“People understood my game and what I brought to the game,” Hardaway told the same outlet. “The crossover will never die down. People are still trying to do my crossover. When I see them do it and they don’t finish it or they dribble it out of bounds, I tell them, ‘You got to work on it.’ My legacy will be there, and people will recognize me for years to come…The crossover made a big mark on the NBA. It’s an unstoppable move.”
Who’s the likely heir?
While it’s clear that Hardaway is the king of all handles kings, some fans surely couldn’t help but wonder who the second-best is. Of course, there’s no better way but to ask “Mr. Crossover” himself.
According to Hardaway, if he had to pick the one who resembles his crossover, it would be Kemba Walker.
“I'd pick Kemba Walker,” Hardaway revealed in 2019. “He's got a handle like I got a handle. He doesn't exaggerate it either. When I say he doesn't exaggerate it, what I mean is he doesn't shake somebody and try re-shake them- he just goes right by you. He's going to do one move and go right by you. That's the way I was taught.”
A beautiful testimonial from a legend like Isiah Thomas certainly affirms Hardaway’s claim to fame. But for sure, this whole king of crossover thing will still be an interesting subject of debate in the years to come. On top of that, more and more hoopers will try and modify it. But as far as Tim Hardaway Sr. is concerned, the “Mr. Crossover” title belongs to him, and we could hate it or just live with it.