Isiah Thomas was widely regarded as the NBA’s best dribbler during his heyday in the 1980s, when he moved the basketball like a yo-yo. But even the Detroit Pistons icon learned something new when he saw Tim Hardaway, a high school student in his hometown of Chicago, use the crossover dribble for the first time.
About 40 years later, Tim Hardaway Sr. inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday after a remarkable career in the NBA and college. The point guard is best known for his revolution with his “UTEP two-step” crossover move that has become a staple in the NBA and basketball courts around the world.
“In Chicago, I was known for the dribble between the legs,” Thomas told Andscape. “And then I saw Tim when he was in high school at a Christmas holiday tournament that I returned to as one of the special guests. Not only did Tim have the between the legs, but he added a crossover to it. We all played with the crossover, but none of us made it a major part of your move.
“When Tim punched you between the legs and then came back and gave you the crossover, he had such style and flair with it. Not only was it such a difficult move to guard, but it was also very beautiful. He had moxie, attitude, and confidence to go with it. He takes the name and crown as the ‘King of the Crossover’. Allen Iverson came in and had another stutter step crossover. But Hardaway’s crossover is a staple of everyone’s moves right now.”
Hardaway is 18th on the NBA’s all-time assist list with 7,095. The 13-year NBA veteran has played on five NBA All-Star teams and was an all-NBA team squad five times. However, the Hardaway crossover is his signature and will last for many years to come.
“People understood my game and what I brought into the game,” Hardaway said. “The crossover will never die out. People are still trying to do my crossover. When I see them do it and they don’t finish it or they dribble it off the track, I say, ‘You have to work on it.’ My legacy will be there and people will recognize me for years to come…
“The crossover has left a big mark on the NBA. It is an unstoppable movement.”
While Chicago was familiar with Hardaway’s crossover dribble, the basketball world learned about it when he played for the University of Texas at El Paso from 1985 to 1989. They nicknamed it “Texas two-step.”
So, what was the motivation for Hardaway to create his famous crossover?
“If you can perfect it, you can get anywhere on the field and make a game for your team by shaking your man. It was a move of mine to go to the basket or create for my teammates,” said Hardaway, who selected the Warriors with the 14th overall pick in the 1989 draft.
Hardaway’s most notable part of his NBA career was during his first six seasons with the Warriors, playing with the famed “Run TMC” trio that included Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. Hardaway averaged 19.8 points, 9.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.95 steals in 422 games with the Warriors. His assists per game are still franchise best. The 6-foot guard also averaged 17.7 points, 8.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 867 career games with the Warriors, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers.
A really nervous Hardaway was named to the Hall of Fame after being passed five times.
“I was afraid to answer the phone, to tell you the truth,” Hardaway said, while recently filming a preview commercial for the NBA season in Los Angeles. “I had been rejected five times before. I was shaking. But after the third or fourth ring, I picked it up. A [Hall of Fame official] called and said, ‘I got better news than last time. I want to congratulate you on your place in the Hall of Fame in 2022.”
“I was like, ‘Man, that’s great!’ From that moment on it was crying for an hour and a half. My wife, parents, my children, my brother. They were just tears of happiness.”
Warriors star Stephen Curry’s father, Dell Curry, played against Hardaway Sr. in the NBA, and now the former plays against Hardaway Jr., who plays for the Mavericks. The dribbling skills of Hardaway Sr. influenced the NBA’s reigning Finals MVP.
“I always knew it was only a matter of time before he made it to the Hall of Fame,” Stephen Curry told Andscape. “There are a lot of players in the league I grew up in who jumped off the screen based on their style. I didn’t really care what their stats were. It was more just the impact of watching them play and building up of a love of basketball.
“He’s at the top of that boys’ list. The way he played had a lasting impact and was Hall of Fame worthy. It’s pretty great to know he’s got a son in the league now, and he’s still being recognized .”
New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, who regularly uses a crossover dribble, added: “His crossover is something a lot of players are modeling these days. He is one of the original pioneers of the crossover. A real game changer.”
Jamal Crawford, whose Twitter handle is @JCrossoverrecalled the first time he saw Hardaway unleash his signature move.
“I remember the first time I saw him hit Byron Scott with the move in the playoffs against the Lakers,” Crawford told Andscape. “It was devastating! He’s an original, and the step he brought to the game will outlive all of us.”
Hardaway Sr.’s #10 jersey was retired by the Heat and UTEP. Becoming a Hall of Famer could also put him in a position to have his jersey retired by the Warriors.
“It’s all about getting to the Hall of Fame. Let’s deal with this first. Let’s take a look at that,” Hardaway said as he got his jersey retired by the Warriors.
Years before becoming an NBA star, Jason Kidd had the privilege of playing pick-up games in the summer as a high school star at Alameda College (California) against Hardaway, Mullin and former NBA star Gary Payton. The Dallas Mavericks coach still remembers the challenge of dealing with Hardaway’s crossover during his teenage years.
“As a kid, you always knew about the crossover, the speed, and the low dribble,” said Kidd, also a Hall of Famer. “You just never wanted to be on the other side guarding him. I never wanted to get hit by him because it was such an annoying move when he leaned one way and then the other. You just wanted to make sure you weren’t ashamed…
“So, it was a game changer. When you talk about crossovers, everyone is always talking about AI [Iverson]. But it all started with Timmy and the crossover he did at Golden State.”
Like Kidd, Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy also became well versed in Hardaway’s crossover while playing high school and junior college basketball in the Bay Area. The former University of Hawaii star said he worked hard on the speed and control of his crossover because of Hardaway.
Handy described the upcoming Hall of Famer’s crossover as a groundbreaking move that impacted him and today’s youth.
“The ‘UTEP two-step’ was a revolutionary move,” Handy told Andscape. “It changed the game in many ways in terms of guards attacking defenders. Tim was the first to really use the crossover that way, and it was unstoppable. Every time a player named a signature move after him, you know it’s a game changer.”