The NBA’s Best Handshakes: Controversies, Fails, and Glory

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Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined to deliver their most lasting contribution to the NBA to date earlier this week, when they paired up to deliver the latest element of the fantastic, often underrated tapestry that is basketball players and handshakes. If this is shocking news to you, then perhaps you haven’t been paying attention to the wide world of NBA handshakes (moderately understandable) or the Cleveland Cavaliers (slightly less so). Oh, and also, there was some controversy about whether or not Love and Irving were pantomiming smoking a joint at the conclusion of the ritual, but we’re not terribly concerned with that — the official word is that they were “sharpening mustaches” anyway, and who are we to say otherwise?

That was not the position taken by the Hot Take army, though, and the ‘shake, which is embedded in a Vine on the next page, wound up creating some minor, trifling headlines, as everything in the NBA does when it happens to be indicative of something outside the step of the typical fan experience: Tattoos, afros, excessive taunting, and dunking come to mind. So does drinking Hennessy at half-time, but Metta World Peace is out of the league, so we’ve kind of closed the book on that one.

There have been some very interesting handshakes (Although, to this point no HandshakeGates) that have highlighted the hallowed halls of NBA history. We’ve tracked down the best of the best for your elucidation, but be warned: You’re probably going to spend minutes, maybe tens of minutes, trying to replicate them.

There we go, there’s the sharpened mustaches. Much ado about nothing, right? Right. This isn’t even the best/worst handshake with which Love has been involved. While he was with the Timberwolves, Love went through a series of fantastically elaborate greetings with his teammates, some successful, some not quite so crisp. The degree of difficulty isn’t always the issue, either. Consider this gem of a fail from the foul line all the way back in 2010, when KLove and Wes Johnson pawed at each other to exactly no avail.

If you want to get technical, that’s not really a handshake — it’s more of a high five, but not only is that ridiculously pedantic, the high five often acting as a stand-in for the handshake and all, but it also denies the incredible improvements in Love’s handshake game over the last four years. Good job, Kevin Love. While Love’s pantomime with Irving was pretty good, it doesn’t stand up to two of the best, both guard. We’re talking about Monta Ellis and Jeremy Lin. They’re next level when it comes to the handshake.

First things first — that shot is absurd, both in the awesomeness (nothing but net) and in the fact that there is exactly zero chance that it will ever result in points in an actual NBA game. That said, the handshake afterwards is everything people love about any kind of customized greeting or celebration. It has intricacy, and an ease of operation that belies the obvious degree of difficulty. The argument for it being the perfect basketball handshake is there, but it’s undercut by the fact that (owing to some cursory Googling) it might have originated out of the Gangster Disciples. Whatever. We can’t validate that, and we’re loathe to ignore this shake based on Youtube comments.

As for Jeremy Lin, no one is ever going to mistake this for any sort of “street” anything, which is part of what makes it so totally phenomenal. What is “this?” It’s the lasting picture of Linsanity, that’s what it is. Check it out below, then bask in the total ridiculousness — then remember that you’re reading about grown men who get paid to play a children’s game. Basketball handshakes are rad.