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Head to Head: Was Harden’s Crossover Legal and Exciting or Illegal and Uncool?

Houston Rockets’ superstar James Harden’s crossover on the Los Angeles Clipper’s Wesley Johnson on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles has become a sensation over the past week. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons
Houston Rockets’ superstar James Harden’s crossover on the Los Angeles Clipper’s Wesley Johnson on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles has become a sensation over the past week. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons

Where two writers produce two different opinions about one topic. Who do you think is right?

The issue: Was Harden’s Crossover Legal and Exciting or Illegal and Uncool?

By Austin Santiago and Adam Zaki

Published: March 14th, 2018

Santiago: Crossovers are nothing new to the NBA or its fans. In fact, with the level of talent in today’s league, as well as round-the-clock coverage of every game, NBA fans are spoiled with highlight-worthy dribble moves. However, every season there is one move, one dribble, one shimmy that seems to outshine the rest, and this year it was James Harden snatching Wesley Johnson’s ankles on primetime television. This one had to hurt; Wesley Johnson must have hit the ground knowing he had joined the likes of Tyronn Lue and Brandon Knight as the highlight-of-the-year victim.

As per tradition, whenever a sacrifice to the crossover gods of this magnitude occurs, it usually ushers in a conversation about respect among NBA players. What many are quick to talk about regarding this particular highlight wasn’t so much the move, but rather the stare-down Harden gave Johnson immediately following the move.

Harden himself said there was no disrespect intended with his stare. “I was looking at him and he was looking at me, I was trying to figure out what he was doing,” Harden said to reporters after the game. Harden also received praise from fellow superstar LeBron James, who told the media, “That’s one of those moves that you dream about having.” In reference to the stare-down, James said, “It probably surprised [Harden], when someone goes down like that it throws you off a little bit.”  

Though the move was “savage” in every sense of the term, any longtime NBA fan should know better than to ridicule Harden for the stare-down. If anything, NBA fans should appreciate his knack for showmanship. The NBA is a league that is built on showmanship, which is why it is one of the most popular sports organizations in the world today. Many have been quick to throw the rulebook at Harden, citing that he took too many steps after the crossover. While it is true that superstars in the NBA have somewhat of a discount when it comes to getting the whistle, this writer feels Harden’s motions were clean. 

If you watch closely, you will see that after Harden picks up his dribble, he plants his right foot. Once a player stops dribbling, they are allowed to have a pivot foot. This foot can never move, and it is clear in the video that Harden’s right foot never moves once it is planted.

Not only is the move clean, but it also serves as a reminder to NBA fans of how lucky we are to be able to watch the best basketball players in the world apply their craft on a nightly basis. Watch the highlight, retweet it, like it on every social media platform. Wesley Johnson is a grown man making millions to play basketball; he’ll be ok. 

Zaki: The NBA has become a display of individual success, as players’ personalities and egos have begun to define them both on and off the court. James Harden, a player who has been criticized throughout his career for playing absolutely no defense, in an ultimate measure of character and tenacity on the hardwood, showboated with a huge lead and traveled in the process. 

Basketball is a flashy, exciting, and fiery sport that is played with passion at all levels. It is a game with only five players on the court for each team, so the ability to shine as an individual is available more so than any other team sport. With players being able to be easily recognized by fans due to the lack of facial equipment, individual success has become paramount in entertaining basketball at the professional level.

Whether or not the game’s focus on individuals has made it better or worse, Harden’s crossover on Wesley Johnson was a travel and should’ve been whistled off before the shot was put up. Harden takes an extra shimmy to get himself behind the line. Much like the other stars of the game, Harden was fortunate because the officials missed the call and let him take a pause and shoot.

Many fans of the game have said that Harden’s play was clean. Anybody who has played the game, or has been around different levels of basketball, would say that if that same play was made in high school or college, the player would’ve been called for a travel almost every time. Harden clearly shimmies his feet, but because everyone was so distracted with Wesley Johnson losing his footing, Harden’s slide behind the arc went unnoticed in the heat of the moment.

As far as the stare-down goes, kindness and empathy have no place in any level of sports. Rather, competitiveness combined with sportsmanship and respect creates righteous attempts at victory. With this combination, teams of any sport can be successful and be respected by their opponents without being necessarily liked by them. Harden doesn’t have to avoid embarrassing Johnson in order to be considered a quality all-around player. 

The stare-down flirted with disrespect, and it doesn’t help Harden’s case that he shook Johnson with his team up by 21 points. In the context of the game, it may interpreted as disrespect. In the context of Harden’s career, he was playing against a struggling Clippers team amidst the heart of one his most promising campaigns. Harden is arguably in one of the best situations to compete for a championship since his time on the Thunder. Up by a big lead, Harden was fired up and displayed his skills and emotions simultaneously.

Although his stare-down was gutsy, Harden’s move sends a message around the league that not only are the Rockets able to jump out to gigantic leads in the opening minutes of ball games, but that their best player may also be one of the best one-on-one isolation players in the history of the game.

Although the play should’ve been whistled as a traveling violation, it wasn’t. It’ll go down as one of the top plays of the season, while likely defining Johnson’s career. If Harden made that move on the street, he may have been picking up his teeth from the pavement. With the NBA having unprecedented levels of soft play and showboating, Harden’s uncalled traveling violation fits right into the NBA’s chosen direction.

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