When discussing players entering the Hall of Fame, it is easy to get caught up in career resumes – an extensive laundry list of gaudy statistics, awards and accolades that each player achieved over the course of a long career.
But there is also the impact on the game that goes beyond earning awards such as Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, or scoring champion. The two NBA players headlining the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022 embody that idea – Tim Hardaway and Manu Ginobili.
Watch any basketball game today – NBA, WNBA, EuroLeague, NCAA, AAU, high school, pick-up games – and you will see the influence of both Hardaway and Ginobili on display thanks to a pair of signature moves that came to prominence thanks to these two icons – the Killer Crossover and the Eurostep.
They are part of a lexicon of signature moves from some of the game’s all-time greats:
- Michael Jordan’s fadeaway
- George Gervin’s finger roll
- Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook
- James Harden’s step-back 3
- Hakeem Olajuwon’s Dream Shake
- Tim Duncan’s bank shot
- Magic Johnson’s no-look pass
Tim Hardaway: The Killer Crossover
Let’s begin by getting this out of the way: Tim Hardaway did not invent the crossover dribble. While he was not the first to do it, he was the man that made the move famous and his success with the Killer Crossover propelled the move to become a staple in the game for the past 30-plus years.
Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Hardaway perfected the move over countless games in gyms and playgrounds all over the city. But it wasn’t until he arrived at the University of Texas-El Paso that the basketball world at large first got a glimpse of the “UTEP two-step.”
When Hardaway arrived in the NBA – he was the 14th pick in the 1989 draft by the Golden State Warriors to form the famous “Run TMC” trio with fellow Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond – the move became known as the Killer Crossover as Hardaway slayed plenty of opposing guards with his signature maneuver.
Similar to another legendary point guard born and raised in Chicago – Isiah Thomas – Hardaway was undersized at 6-feet tall and had to rely on speed, quickness and skill to find success in the league. The crossover was his weapon of choice – a move that sounds simple in theory as a change of direction dribble, but is difficult to master.
There’s a precision to the timing and execution that make the move effective. As he’s dribbling toward the basket from the perimeter, Hardaway is studying his defender, sizing him up and watching his feet to find the perfect time to initiate his move.
It starts with a low, hard between-the-legs dribble, most often from the right hand to the left hand, with Hardaway shifting his weight to the left to sell the defender that he is about to drive. As soon as the defender reacts and moves to cut off the driving lane, Hardaway immediately crosses over from his left hand back to his right hand and blows past the frozen defender.
The crossover is one of the few moves in the game that is both as effective as it is stylish. The crossover remains one of the best one-on-one moves for an offensive player to create space to either make a play for themselves or their teammates. And there are few plays that will draw louder reactions than a defender stumbling and falling after biting on a great crossover. From the crowd in the arena to the fans watching on television or scrolling on their phones, dropping a defender with a crossover is a viral moment waiting to happen.
But the effectiveness of the move is what makes it timeless. Countless players – including Allen Iverson, Jamal Crawford, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and James Harden to name a few — have unleashed the crossover over the past few decades as the move will live long after the man that first made it famous.
Manu Ginobili: The Eurostep
It’s fitting that Hardaway and Ginobili enter the Hall together as both players were masters of deception and change of direction. Hardaway had already made the crossover famous by the time Ginobili entered the NBA as the 57th pick in the 1999 draft, and Ginobili utilized the crossover on many of his acrobatic drives to the basket.
The 6-foot-6 lefty out of Argentina remains one of the most creative and unorthodox players the NBA has ever seen. Spending his entire 16-year NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs, his style of play gave coach Gregg Popovich plenty of gray hairs, but also help deliver four championships to the Alamo City.
Similar to Hardaway, Ginobili is not the inventor of the Eurostep, but was the player that popularized the move in the NBA after he used it in both Argentina and while playing in the Italian League before joining the Spurs.
The NBA rulebook states that “A player who gathers the ball while progressing may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.” It does not state which direction those steps must be made or whether they need to be made in a straight line.
While a straight-line drive to the basket makes sense when the lane is wide open, those opportunities don’t come too often. Instead, there is usually at least one defender in the way, which could force the ball handler to either stop the drive for a pull-up shot, pass to a teammate, or try to elevate over the defender for a dunk.
Another option is the Eurostep, which sees the driver gather their dribble, plant in one direction, then take a long lateral step in the other direction in order to sneak around the defender for a layup attempt. When a player is driving the lane full speed, often the defender will be stationary looking to draw a charge, and the Eurostep allows the offensive player to avoid contact and still get an open look.
The move fit Ginobili’s game to a tee. He was already a fearless driver, who would challenge bigger players in the lane and play through contact; he had the ability to contort his body like an acrobat; and had a knack for knocking down non-traditional circus shots. Shots that would often have Charles Barkley screaming “GINOBILI!” at the top of his lungs on Inside the NBA.
When Ginobili drove toward the basket, you had to expect he would try to pull off any type of shot, so when he started breaking out the Eurostep, he would freeze defenders and leave them hapless to stop him.
The NBA can be a copycat league at times. When players see a move that works, they will steal it and try to add it to their repertoire. Think about Kevin Durant using the Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway, Kobe Bryant mimicking the Michael Jordan fadeaway, or countless players incorporating the Harden step-back three into their arsenal. Similar to the Eurostep, the step-back three utilizes the two steps that a player is allowed after they gather their dribble, only they take them backwards to create enough space to launch a jumper.
Players like Harden, Dwyane Wade and Giannis Antetokounmpo added the Euro-Step to their bag of tricks as they looked for new ways to score. Now that the move has been popularized in the NBA, it is trickling down to future generations, extending the legacy of Ginobili along the way.
Lindsay Whalen: Homecoming
Every year, the Minnesota Lynx would make the call. They would reach out to Connecticut to see if they would be willing to broker a trade to bring Lindsay Whalen back home.
Whalen grew up in Hutchinson, Minnesota and rose to stardom playing for the University of Minnesota, as she put the Golden Gophers program on the map by leading them to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the Final Four in her senior season in 2004.
Following a stellar collegiate career, Whalen was selected as the No. 4 pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Connecticut Sun, who sat two spots higher on the draft board than her hometown Minnesota Lynx at No. 6.
She may have been 1,400 miles away from home, but Whalen made an immediate impact once she arrived in Connecticut, helping the Sun advance to the WNBA Finals in each of her first two seasons. Whalen’s best season with the Sun came in 2008, when she led the WNBA in assists, earned the first of her three All-WNBA First Team selections and helped the Sun finish second in the East. However, Connecticut was eliminated in the first round in what would end up being her final postseason with the Sun.
After failing to make the playoffs in 2009, this time it was Connecticut that called Minnesota as they were ready to discuss a trade that would give Whalen the homecoming that she and the state of Minnesota were looking for.
Whalen’s first season in Minnesota did not follow the Hollywood script of the hometown hero arriving and saving the team as the conquering hero. Instead, the Lynx were hampered by injuries and stumbled to a 13-21 record and missed the playoffs. The disappointment didn’t last long as the Lynx beat the odds and won the 2011 WNBA Draft lottery and the ability to add Maya Moore to their roster.
Everything fell into place for the Lynx in 2011: Seimone Augustus was healthy; Moore was as good as advertised; Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin held down the post; and Whalen was the orchestrator; all under the tutelage of second-year head coach Cheryl Reeve. Minnesota more than doubled their win total from 2010, finishing with a league-best and then franchise-record 27-7 record, before running through the postseason with a 7-1 record, including a Finals sweep to earn their first WNBA title.
It ended up being the first of four WNBA championships for Whalen and the Lynx over a seven-year span as they won the title every other year (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017). Following the 2017 season, Reeve convinced Whalen to return for one more run before calling it a career. She returned to the court, becoming the WNBA’s all-time leader in career wins with 323 (a mark that has since been topped by Sue Bird), but she also took on a new job on the sidelines, as Whalen accepted the head coaching job at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, to bring the story full circle.
Homecoming stories don’t often have fairy tale finishes, but it’s hard to argue that Whalen’s return to Minnesota was nothing short of spectacular.
Swin Cash: Winning Everywhere
Swin Cash lost the first 13 games of her WNBA career. That’s four more losses than she suffered in her entire four-year collegiate career at the University of Connecticut.
The Huskies went 136-9 during Cash’s four years in Storrs, winning NCAA championships in 2000 (capping off a 36-1 season) and in 2002 (capping off a perfect 39-0 season). Cash was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player in her final collegiate game before being selected as the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Detroit Shock.
Ten games into their abysmal start to the 2002 season, the Shock made a coaching change, with Bill Laimbeer taking over as head coach. He immediately told Cash that she was going to be the focal point of the team and she proved ready for the task. After the 0-13 start, the Shock went 9-10 the rest of the way, but still finished with the worst record in the league at 9-23.
Cash finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind current Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings and future Hall of Famer Sue Bird as Cash averaged 14.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while making the transition from playing power forward in college to small forward in the pros.
As Swin expanded her shooting range and developed into a reliable perimeter scorer and defender, she never lost any of the strength, toughness and relentlessness she had needed to play in the post for so long as an undersized power forward standing at just 6-foot-1.
Swin’s sophomore season in the WNBA saw the Shock make history as they went from worst to first, becoming the first American professional sports team to win the championship following a season that ended in a last-place finish in the standings.
Cash led the way with a career-best 16.6 points per game scoring average. It was the first of two championships she would win in Detroit – the other came in 2006 — before a strained relationship with Laimbeer resulted in a 2008 trade from Detroit to Seattle and a reunion with her college teammate Bird.
During her final seasons in Detroit and her first season in Seattle, Cash was playing with a herniated disc that was causing severe pain in her lower back and limiting her movement and overall effectiveness on the court. Following the 2008 season, she finally addressed her ailing back by having surgery to repair the herniated disc. She returned for the start of the 2009 season and helped lead the Storm back to the playoffs, where they suffered another disappointing first-round loss – their fifth in a row.
The next year, the perfect storm finally came together for Seattle as they posted a league-best 28-6 record during the regular season and went a perfect 7-0 in the postseason to win their third WNBA title. Cash played her best ball since her early seasons in Detroit as her 13.8 points per game was her highest scoring average since 2004.
The addition of Whalen and Cash brings the total number WNBA players in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to 12. Of that dozen, 10 players have won a WNBA title, including eight with multiple championships. Swin Cash is the only WNBA player in the Hall to win titles with multiple WNBA franchises.
If that wasn’t enough winning for Cash, she also added a pair of Olympic gold medals to her trophy case. She won her first gold medal in Athens in 2004, but was not chosen for the Olympic team in 2008. That disappointment fueled Cash to get healthy, work harder and make sure she didn’t get that call saying she had been cut again. When it came time to select the team for the 2012 games in London, Cash got the call she wanted and helped bring another gold back home.