Not since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his skyhook has an NBA player been as identified with a signature shot as James Harden is with his step-back jumper. It seems simple — a lunge forward combined with a quick retreat to create space before a quick shot — but it’s one of the most potent offensive weapons in the league.
Now there’s a delightful video of Jett Darbyshire, identified in his Instagram profile as “just a 6-year-old living the dream,” giving Harden a taste of his own medicine. The video shows Darbyshire a.k.a. Bigg Jett dribbling the ball through his legs and taking on the seven-time All-Star (who, to be fair, looks to be playing a pretty soft D against the youngster). He moves toward Harden, Harden backs off, and then it happens: Darbyshire pulls the step-back, gathers the ball, and sinks a midrange jumper.
After scoring on the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player, Darbyshire stares down Harden sheepishly, clasping his arms to his chest. Harden smiles, seemingly impressed with how well the kid pulled off his trademark move.
The step-back is controversial in the NBA mostly among opponents and rival fans. Their frustration is understandable. Thanks to the step-back, Harden has won two scoring titles in a row in historic fashion. The only players who’ve averaged more than the 36.13 points per game he had last year are Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan; the former did it five times in the 1960s.