Houston Rockets’ James Harden sets record straight on step-back three

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Houston Rockets guard James Harden’s step-back is becoming as iconic as Hakeem’s Dream Shake, but he’s getting tired of defending if it’s legal or not.

There are many iconic signature moves in NBA history. You have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s skyhook, Michael Jordan‘s fadeaway, Allen Iverson‘s crossover, and many more. Recently, there is another move that has taken the Houston Rockets to new heights offensively while also taking over the league thanks in part to James Harden: the step-back 3-pointer.

The step-back has been around for years. Everyone remembers players like Paul Pierce or more recently Jimmy Butler hitting game-winners with step-backs, but it has become an iconic move thanks to Harden.

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As is common with any trend that is popular in this day and age, there are bound to be critics. The Beard’s devastating move has been the topic of many discussions and the more often he keeps using this move, the more it will be analyzed and criticized.

Media complaints

For a few years now there have been complaints from the media, other players and fans that Harden’s step-back is a traveling violation. From video broken down by analysts on TV to NBA veterans like Tracy McGrady, the criticism has been unavoidable since James has started to employ the move on a regular basis.

Even other NBA coaches such as Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr have made comments about the move being a travel. Kerr would eventually delete his tweet on the matter but his feelings were made quite clear.

This sentiment has been growing among the public to the point where the NBA recently had to release a statement on Harden’s signature move.

James Harden’s response

James Harden has been hearing criticism of his step-back jumper for years now and is ready for the discussion to be over. When recently asked about the controversy by Houston Rockets insider Alykhan Bijani, Harden had this to say:

James Harden on step-back: “I don’t understand where this whole traveling thing comes from. Just because it looks awkward or looks different from what the world is used to. That’s called being a creator. That’s called changing the game.” #Rockets

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) September 29, 2019

It’s not just Harden and the Houston Rockets who have come out and explain how his signature move is not a traveling violation. Last year, 15-year NBA referee Zach Zarba explained in a video with Business Insider why the move is perfectly legal.

James Harden is no stranger to people criticizing his patented moves. Before he perfected the step-back, Harden was euro stepping his way to the basket often and would hear the same complaints back then as well. Now with a new season about the start, there is another move Harden has been working on that is sure to stir up controversy.

One-legged stepback three

All offseason Harden teased a new possible move to add to his repertoire. Over the summer, he revealed in a pickup game what it would be.


If the one-legged step-back indeed becomes Harden’s new move, there’s a chance there will again be some discussions about it as well. Harden, the Houston Rockets and the NBA have all confirmed multiple times that his step-back is not a travel and going by that, his new version shouldn’t be either, but for some people that doesn’t seem to matter.

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No matter what other “coaches, players, haters or fans” say, history will one day look back at James Harden’s step-back jumper as an all-time great move.