NBA Mailbag

NBA Mailbag: Best players & teams from the 2010s?

20-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford answers your questions in a 2010s edition of NBA Mailbag.

Derrick Rose takes flight against the Thunder during the 2009-10 season.

The NBA Mailbag is here to answer your questions throughout the 2023 offseason! Have a question for Jamal? Submit it at the bottom of this edition of the NBA Mailbag. The next edition will focus on key storylines and predictions for the 2023-24 season.

What was the most iconic moment for you from the 2010s?

– from Bhavin in India

Ray Allen’s dagger 3 in the corner to tie Game 6 against the Spurs in the 2013 Finals.

Best team of the 2010s?

– from David in Tewksbury, MA

The 2016-17 Warriors with KD.

Hey Jamal, big fan of your play style and I respect the longevity displayed in your career. Being that you played all through the 2010s, what’s the biggest “What if?” moment that comes to mind for you? Much love!

– from Luke in California

Thanks for the love! The biggest “What if?” for me is if the “Lob City” Clippers could have held on and beaten the Rockets in 2015 when we were up 3-1. I feel like that was our best chance to win a championship. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Which championship team was most underrated in the 2010s in your opinion?

– from Antonis in Greece

The 2014 Spurs. They were so good and so efficient. Nothing wasted. They were special, and are sometimes overlooked because of the Heat and Warriors eras.

What 2010s championship team(s) would you have liked to be on or would have been the most fun to play on?

– from Patrick in Texas

The Warriors teams would have been the most fun for me because of their style of play. They had so much space to operate.

How would you describe guarding 2011 MVP prime Derrick Rose?

– from Lamarr in San Francisco, CA

It didn’t feel real. I can’t even call it a nightmare. He was something that we’ve never seen before. He was a basketball player with Olympics-level speed and strength. It was unreal. We actually played against each in the playoffs that year and he caught a lob where I almost took him out because I was like, “There’s no way he’s going for this lob.” His feet were on my shoulders. It was incredible.

How tough was the Thunder team with KD, Russ & Harden? How many titles do you think they would’ve won if they stayed together?

– from Jawan in Long Beach

That team was really, really tough. They figured out how to take over different parts of the game, which is interesting when you have three players at that level. Since they were that tough when they were so young, I think they definitely would have a few championships if they had stayed together.

Which version of LeBron is the best LeBron?

– from David in Tewksbury, MA

I don’t know which version is the best version, but my favorite version of ‘Bron was his first stint in Cleveland. His expectations were so unrealistic and every team targeted him, but he was so good right from the start. He was immediately ready to be one of the best players in the NBA. I remember Danny Ainge said there were only five guys in the NBA he would take over LeBron when he entered the league. And we were like, “Yeah, right. There’s no way.” And Danny Ainge proved to be right.

What was it like playing against the ‘Big Three’ Heat?

– from Daniel in Miami, FL

It was a show. You felt like they could embarrass you at any moment. LeBron and D-Wade did it in the air. Chris Bosh did it with his shooting and running like a gazelle. They were so good and had so many great complementary pieces to make those three stars even better.

What was your favorite Kobe moment of all time?

– from Tyler in Illinois

His last game because it felt like it was a movie script. They way he was scoring was like you were watching a movie in real time. It was unbelievable. He gave every single thing he had to the game and you felt it that night.

Who was a more dominant duo, LeBron and D-Wade or Steph and Durant?

– from Paxton in Summit, NJ

I’ll go with Steph and Durant, because if Durant didn’t get hurt then they would have gone 3-for-3 on championships. Since the Heat went 2-2 in the Finals, I’ll give the edge to the Warriors’ duo.

What was the vibe like amongst players after Durant signed with Golden State?

– from Thomas in New London, CT

For me, I wanted him to have his happiness. At that moment, it seemed like there was another mountain to climb and he felt his tenure in OKC was done. But that’s what made him happy. And that’s what I wanted to see. I always want to see these guys be the most happy. I didn’t take it like, “Oh, man. Why did you do that?” I was like, “Oh, that’s somebody I know. That’s a friend of mine. If this is what makes him happy … do it.”

What was your favorite part of the ‘Lob City’ era in L.A.?

– from Luke in Athens, NY

My favorite part was the first year because everything was still so fresh and new. They added Chris Paul the year before and made the playoffs. Then it became we’re really trying to build something as a family and go for it.

What is one thing from the past the NBA should bring back?

– from Vysen-Jaydence in Honolulu, HI

The Sonics.

Hi Jamal, who in your opinion has the best-looking shooting motion? Not just the arms and release, but the entire body? I’ve always thought jump shooters look better (eg Ray Allen, Klay, Kyle Korver, Reddick) than set shooters. What are your thoughts?

– from Dave in Sydney, Australia

For me, it has always been Ray Allen. He has the prettiest looking jumper I’ve ever seen. It’s all one motion and looks like a machine. It’s the same every single time. However, if I had to teach a kid how to shoot, it would look more like Klay’s. It’s picture perfect. But to me, Ray had the smoothest looking jump shot.

Which year do you consider the best Jamal Crawford?

– from David in Tewksbury, MA

The first year in LA, because I had the freedom to be me. But I also had to cut the fat because I was playing with such great players and I didn’t have room to mess around. That kept me sharp to be around those guys. I didn’t average the most points, but to me that was the best version of me. I was top 5 in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring and I should have made the All-Star team.

Why did it seem like your game took a monumental leap when you went from Portland to LA? Is there something about So-Cal that changes your basketball game or mindset?

– from Mike in Portland, OR

In Portland, I didn’t feel like I was used to my strengths. I was 32 at the time, so people were like, “Oh, he’s losing the step” and I was like, “Oh, OK. I’ll show you.” So how bad I was in Portland fueled how good I was going to be in LA.

I’m a diehard Knick fan. I hate that you didn’t stay with the team into the 2010s. My question is what is your favorite memory as a Knick?

– from Shane in Locust Grove, GA

Great question! Scoring 52 in The Garden is the first thing to come to mind. But there was also a time when I hit game-winners at The Garden on Monday and Wednesday of the same week. That was the craziest thing for me to hit back-to-back game-winners in The Garden.

How many shots did you get up in each practice, when you were in the league?

– from Christopher in Atlanta, GA

I’m not sure how many I got up each practice, but I always stayed after. I was one of those before and after guys, so I shot a lot before and after practice just in case I didn’t get many up in the actual practice. Especially in LA with Chris Paul, JJ Redick and those guys.

We shot a lot of shots. But we didn’t have a number. We would go through spots and there would be a time limit. We might shot for 90 minutes after practice, or longer if things got competitive. On road trips, practice was optional and we would shoot for hours. We would put on a CD and go through the whole CD. Maybe go through it twice. So we did it that way instead of targeting a certain number of shots.

How does it feel to still play the game at a high level even after retirement from the NBA?

– from Brayden in Cowpens, SC

It feels great. I was never thinking my skills would leave once I stopped playing. This is how I envisioned it. You play forever, right? So I’m glad I can still play at a high level.

Is there one move or one part of your game that you in retrospect wish you worked on more?

– from Douglas in Stockholm

I wish I was more headstrong on not changing positions. I would have stayed at point guard, especially with how the league evolved to allow more scoring point guards in the 2010s. You started seeing it a lot more and it became accepted. So that’s one thing I wish I would have stayed true to.

What toll did you pay physically for playing basketball for so long? Any chronic pain issues?

– from Greg in Plano, TX

Your body just gets sore and you have to stay on top of it. What I found is the more I stay in shape, the better my body feels. If I don’t do anything for a day, I know it the next day. But if I stay active and stay moving, my body feels really good. I was blessed not to have any major injuries to deal with and that’s part of the reason I can still play at a high level.

I always show my son and my players your highlights because you’re one of my favorite players to watch and you’ve always played the game the right way. My question is what was your thought process going into a game and how did you prepare? How did you stay positive while playing for the “not so good” teams?

– from MJ in Chicago, IL

First off, thank you for showing your son and players my highlights. And thank you for allowing me to be one of your favorite players. For me, I never want to cheat the game. I wanted to give everything I had to the game. I didn’t care if we were in a city that’s not as popular on a wet Wednesday. I wanted to show up and try to show out because I dreamed of being on that stage for so long. I never took a game for granted. I never took the game for granted. And it kept pushing me … I was always thankful. That’s why I came to play every single night no matter where it was or who I played for. Whether we were good or bad. I just wanted to absolutely try to be the best I could be.

Hey Jamal, how do you dribble between the legs and behind the body? They are some of the most basic moves, but I don’t know how to.

– from Israel in Texas

Keep a ball with you as much as possible and just start dribbling. You’ll find yourself getting better and better. The first time I ever went through my legs when I was a kid, I actually lifted up my legs so I had more room. I think I was probably 7 years old. As I kept dribbling, I got better at it so I didn’t have to do that anymore. So just keep dribbling. On YouTube, there are so many different drills you can do to help you become a better dribbler. You’ll get where you want to go if you practice.

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