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If sports fans love anything, it’s a ranked list. Whether you’re watching a debate-based TV show or sitting in a bar, nothing quite gets the juices flowing like arguing about which NBA player was the best in a particular category. For the sake of this exercise, let’s consider ball handling. Who would you say has the best crossover in NBA history?

It’s not a true debate without multiple opinions, though, so we’ll have to consider what Tim Hardaway Sr. had to say. Not only did he rank the best crossovers that the Association has ever seen, but he put himself right at the top of the list.

Tim Hardaway believes he has the best crossover in NBA history

While everyone has their own biases — some people, for example, really love watching a defensive stopper go to work — we can all agree that there’s something mesmerizing about top-notch ball handling. Dribbling is the sort of thing that can look easy when you’re alone on the playground, but it becomes quite a bit trickier when you’re trying to make your way down the court against an NBA-caliber opponent.

During his time on the hardwood, though, Tim Hardaway Sr. didn’t miss a beat. The UTEP Two-Step became known around the basketball world as one of the most-lethal weapons around. If you found yourself facing the guard, you had to be on high alert to avoid getting embarrassed.

Through that lens, Sports Lens asked the five-time All-Star to rank the best crossovers in NBA history. As you might expect, Hardaway put himself right at the top of the list.

“Tim Hardaway, number 1,” he explained. “Kyrie Irving. I would say Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, and Steph Curry.”

Hardaway has previously credited his crossover to growing up in a very specific time and place

As with all lists, there’s some room for differing opinions. Maybe you’re a die-hard Sixers fan and think Iverson’s cool factor should bump him higher up the power rankings. Regardless of your specific position, though, it’s safe to assume that Hardaway’s skills have certainly earned a place in NBA lore.

Those handles, however, might not have existed if the guard grew up in a different place and time.

“Back in the day, in the 70s, we didn’t have Nintendo or X-Box, or none of that stuff,” Hardaway explained ahead of his Basketball Hall of Fame induction. “We had three channels on TV, 32, 2, 5, 7. We had an unfinished basement, and I used to go down, and I lived in the city of Chicago, where it was cold, freezing cold. And sometimes, it was no place to go. Sometimes, you couldn’t go outside because it’s too cold.” 

Faced with that reality, the guard had no other choice other than heading to his lab and getting to work.

“I used to go down in the basement and just dribble,” Hardaway said. “We had two beams down there. And I don’t know if y’all remember, it was a Voit basketball. It’s like a rubber basketball. If you put too much too much air in it, it’s like one of those balls where you just bounce … and it just goes. So you had to put the right amount of air in that ball, so it won’t break your finger or bounce all over the place. I’d just go downstairs for about two hours, and I’d just dribble. I’d just imagine people that I’m playing against. … And that’s how I learned how to dribble. That’s how my dribbling became effective. That’s why I’m very confident in my dribbling, and that’s probably where the crossover came probably came in at.”

So, is Hardaway the best crossover in NBA history? That’s a personal question. But without the stars aligning and him growing up how he did, he might not even be on the list at all.