Monday, November 26, 2012

Jamal Crawford Is Using Street Ball-Style Play to Succeed in NBA

Jamal Crawford is playing his best basketball right now for the Clippers. (

Jamal Crawford is having a coming out party for the Clippers in LA.

His numbers are up across the board. His field goal percentage is the highest it’s ever been in his 13-year career. He’s been lethal from behind the arc and at the charity stripe. The only time he averaged more points per game, he also averaged 12 more minutes per game. And he only averaged one measly point more per contest.

Crawford has had six games where he’s scored 20 or more points off the bench this year for the Clippers. However, the most impressive aspect of Crawford’s exploits this season is how he’s achieved these numbers; playing a street ball-style of basketball that has left some of the NBA’s elite icing sore ankles and egos.

On November 7, The Clippers were taking on a then-undefeated San Antonio Spurs team. Crawford had been quiet throughout the night, shooting just 3-7 from the floor and finishing with 10 points for the game. However, while the match did feature impressive highlight reel dunks from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Crawford would have the most memorable moment in the contest.

With 30 seconds left in the game and LA looking to run out the clock, Crawford took the ball out to the right wing, guarded closely by Spurs rookie guard Nando de Colo. Colo acted aggressively towards Crawford, seemingly wanting to prove himself as a good defender who plays till the final horn.

Bad idea. Admirable, but still a bad idea.

Crawford took a few steps back, drawing Colo to him. Then, in a “watch what I can do” moment, Crawford bounced the ball between Colo’s legs, drove to the hoop, took the foul and headed to the free throw line. Colo stumbled, backpedaled, threw his arms back, searching for an imaginary support, and fell to the court.

Ankles twisted? Check. Tailbone sore? Check. Ego bruised? Absolutely. Lesson learned? Without question.

Crawford has always had a street ball-style of play and broken many more accomplished ankles in the NBA than Colo’s. Proficient defenders such as Kirk Hinrich, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Metta World Peace, Rudy Gay and many more have fallen to Crawford’s handles. However, because of his increased efficiency shooting the ball (practice, anyone?) and his overall numbers at career highs, Crawford’s been more effective and exciting than ever before. 

However, Crawford is not the first street baller to excel at the professional level. For years, fans of basketball have been enthralled with the exaggerated crossovers, the no-look passes, and general showmanship that comes from a street-ball style. The NBA has been fortunate enough to have a few players translate their game from the playground to the court and there are a few notable names that have come through the league.

Let’s go down the list:

First up, Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. His numbers, while not overwhelming, are those of a solid point guard in the NBA. Williams finished up his career with 10 points and six assists per game and a knack for finding himself on the highlight reel for either a crazy crossover or a no-look pass. Williams consistently gave crowds and opponents exhibitions on ball handling. Even famed defender Gary “The Glove” Payton fell to the handles of Williams. While he was healthy, Williams was certainly an above average player in the league.

Next, Stephon “Starbury” Marbury. At the peak of his career, Marbury was one of the better point guards in the NBA, putting up 20 points and eight assists per game. Marbury was known for a devastating crossover and array of moves that left many opponents scratching their heads, wondering if what they’d seen had actually occurred or was simply a figment of their imaginations. There’s no denying that during his time in the league, Marbury was a true spectacle of street-style basketball.

Who could forget Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston? While his time on the court was inconsistent, Alston still managed to have solid career, putting up decent numbers and spectacular highlights. Unfortunately, Alston is probably best known for taking a shot at sharpshooter Eddie House. However, Alston also had the ability to break a defender down and leave them in the dust on his way to the hoop.  Don’t believe me? Ask Dwayne Wade.

Then there’s always J.R. Smith. While his defense leaves something to be desired, Smith has shown to be a very good offensive threat off the bench. He has incredible athleticism, as displayed through his participation in the 2005 dunk contest. While he's been criticized at times for shooting too much, when he’s on, Smith has the ability to really pour it on from downtown. His crossover is nothing to sneer at either.

I couldn’t overlook Nate Robinson, could I? (It’s a height joke.) A 5’9" sparkplug of energy off the bench, Robinson has stunned audiences over the years with his athletic ability, primarily in the dunk contest. No one will ever forget Robinson’s aerial assaults on the hoop over fellow little man Spud Webb and big man Dwight Howard en route to two dunk contest championships. He can also give defenses headaches with his jump shot and ball handling ability.

Who’s number one, you ask? Well here’s “The Answer.” Despite being an undersized guard, Allen “The Answer” Iverson was one of the most prolific scorers the NBA has ever had, putting up 27 points per game. He also affected the game in a big way on defense; collecting two steals a game for his career. While no one will accuse Iverson of being unselfish, he did manage to put up good assist numbers (six per game) along with his scoring. While, unlike Crawford, Iverson never learned the importance of practice, he did make the greatest player to ever walk on an NBA court look like Chevy Chase opening for SNL with his devastating crossover.

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