The world is still stunned by the masterful Nikola Jokić‘s one-legged shooting clinic, in the critical game 6 of the 2020 Western Conference semis vs. L.A. Clippers. Many claim that The Joker picked this particular part of offensive magic from the legendary Dirk Nowitzki, however, with all due respect to the Blue Angel and his achievements, the one-legged fadeaway jumper was in the NBA far before his era.
2000s NBA fans may recall Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who would do it against any given night, making this particular move one of his signature moves. Nowitzki would receive the ball on the wing, or create off the dribble, and then use his size and silky shooting touch to swish the jumper over his opponent.
While Nowitzki indeed patented the one-legged fadeaway, he was certainly not the first to use it in games. The one-legged fadeaway was in NBA long before the Dirk Nowitzki’s tenure with the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s hard to determine who was the first NBA player ever to use it in the games successfully, but, indeed, the sharp-shooting forward’s game served well as a solid base for Nowitzki to model his own game two decades later. It was 1980s Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird, and he used the move quite frequently.
It certainly wasn’t one of Bird’s primary offensive weapons, but he would use it every once in a while. Bird would use it when matched with an aggressive competition like the Pacers trash-talking forward Chuck Person, who wouldn’t back down. The two would trade baskets, followed by bunches of trash-talking. Bird would post up Person and then hit the one-legged fadeaway jumper right in the Person’s face.
Bird even used it to end some of the most thrilling games over his celebrated NBA career. One of those came in 1987 against the Washington Bullets. Bird scored 47 points on 19-29 shooting in an epic Atlantic Division clash, and hit as many as four clutch time shots! Two of those came from one leg to propel the Celtics to a memorable 140-139 win in Washington, D.C.
The year before the Bird’s heroics in Maryland saw the release of one of the best basketball movies ever – Hoosiers. The film about the legendary high-school team from Hickory, Indiana, also tells the story of a sharp-shooting team’s star Jimmy Chitwood. Interestingly, Chitwood and some other Hickory H.S. players also used a one-legged fadeaway as a legit offensive move. While there is no certainty in claiming that who was the one to use the one-legged fadeaway move, it’s pretty sure that the basketball-crazed State of Indiana certainly played its part in its continuing legacy.