It’s the arrangement of rhythm and flash, the vigorous moments where emotions get the best of an athlete. These exciting occasions are what fans live for and what viewers crave on the screens of their televisions.
Some cater to the lighter end of sports while others complement the most iconic plays in sports history. Whether on the field or on the court, celebrations have become a staple in the realm of sports.
For the NBA, some athletes have become notorious for their cheerful traditions. From Rajon Rondo’s tip off goofs to Dwayne Wade’s pre game pull-ups under the rim, the list goes on and on. Here is my lineup of the top ten signature celebrations in NBA history:
10. Steve Novak- “Championship Belt”
As the NFL’s 2014 MVP and last year’s leading passer the loyal fans of Wisconsin are thankful for all the success Aaron Rodgers has brought to the Badger state. But what about the overshadowed Milwaukee star who put his fellow state on the map not through the air but on the basketball court? That’s right, the 6’10” three-point sniper out of Marquette who claims bragging rights over Rodger’s special championship belt celebration Steve Novak. The former Golden Eagle has one of the purest strokes in the NBA. During the 2013 season, it was Novak’s year to shine leading the league with a three-point percentage of .425. Keeping defenses discipline with his streaky shooting behind the arc, Novak was not only infamous for his deadly touch from downtown but his imaginary belt that he wrapped around his waist after hitting a long distance shot. While Rodgers considers himself champion on the football field, Novak will hold the title for being the three-point champion of Wisconsin.
9. Kent Bazemore- “Bazemoring”
From being an undrafted rookie out of college to now the starting forward for the Atlanta Hawks, Kent Bazemore has come a long way since his emergence in the NBA. While the 26-year old’s aggressive defense and tenacious motor ultimately won him his starting job, it was Bazemore’s enthusiasm on the bench that stuck him in the spotlight. The ludicrous, absurd, and outright ridiculous celebration, otherwise known as Bazmoring, was a sight to see during the lefty’s first two years in Golden State. With the teeter-totter, the strike-a-pose, and three-binoculars acting a few of his many cheerful jeers these celebratory moments have provide a much-needed spark and source of encouragement for his teammates. The Old Dominion product has blossomed into a dynamic NBA player, but it’s his enjoyable celebrations that reveal the charismatic and fun player within Bazemore.
8. Ray Allen- “Flick of the Wrist”
Much like his sweet jumper, three-point legend Ray Allen has a classic signature celebration that fits his craft. Smooth and subtle, the simple three-finger flick of the wrist was enough for Allen to signal he is on the money. Cool like the other side of a pillow, the 10-time All-Star was confident in his ability to shoot the deep ball, ending his NBA career with the most three-pointers made in league history. So when the three-point specialist roamed nonchalantly back down the court after draining a shot right in the face of a defender, his conventional finger flick was a statement to opponents if to say, “Yeah, I knew that was going in.”
7. Lebron James- “The Silencer”
It all came down to this. After trailing as many as 17 points to rival Paul Pierce and his Boston Celtics, Miami Heat forward Lebron James had once again taken the game over. Knotting up the match with 15 seconds left in regulation, the stage was set for another vintage moment from number six. Guarded by former Celtic Jeff Green, who also had a career-high night with 43 points, it was only fitting that the Heat star took the game-winning shot over him. With one simple in and out move, James rose above the 6’8” forward and sank a 20-foot dagger. In a jam-packed TD Garden, Boston fans gazed in envy as the King muted the crowd with his trademark move- “The Silencer.” James’ signature move served as an exclamation point to a historic night, extending Miami’s win streak to 23 games, a feat that reached 27 games and ranks second in NBA history. Many will remember this moment as the start of Lebron’s undeniable takeover in the league, leading his team to their second consecutive Finals appearance and third championship in franchise history.
6. Russell Westbrook- “Guns in Holster”
Quick, agile, and executed with spunk just like the play of Oklahoma City floor general Russell Westbrook. The former UCLA Bruin knows how to weave his way to the basket, but when you give him too much room for comfort he’ll make you pay from beyond the arc. Westbrook’s go to move after sinking a three-pointer is his “guns in holster” celebration, an energetic motion of blowing off his hot shooting hand, more specifically three fingers on each side. Putting his “three-guns” back in his imaginary holster and ending it with a turbulent cry of “BOOM!” This gesture is often a heat check for the four-time all-star, usually leading to one of his gravity-defying dunks or another three-point bomb on the next play. While Westbrook is not the most efficient when it comes to shooting from downtown, currently.306 on the year, his locked and loaded celebration is a signal for more dominant play.
5. James Harden- “Stirring the Pot”
When he’s cooking up a storm on the court, he’ll be sure to show it. Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden is a natural when it comes to making plays. Following a shake and bake three-pointer or one of his many “and-one” conversions, the bearded assassin turns to his fans and hits his notorious “stirring the pot” celebration. Placing his left hand high in the air with his right hand below, the 6’5” guard struts down the court twirling his left index finger like an eggbeater on the fastest setting. This has become a common occurrence whenever the Arizona State alum chefs something nasty on the court. While some fans are torn as to who originated this move, Harden or the Oakland based rapper Lil’ B, NBA enthusiasts have undoubtedly grown fond of the lefty’s sizzling celebration.
4. Steph Curry- Chest Tap and Point
One of the most respectable moves by an honorable player in the league. As the former Warrior Head Coach Mark Jackson used to say “Mama, there goes that man,” Davidson standout Steph Curry has a knack for being a walking highlight reel. While his magician-like handles and three-point archery amaze audiences everywhere, the “Splash Brother” does not let his talents take away from being a man of God. Commemorating the Man upstairs for every basket he makes, Curry pounds his chest and points up to the sky as a constant reminder of his strength through Christ. Whether a testament to his faith or to the exceptional player that he is, the tribute stands well for the two-time All-Star having yet another MVP caliber season. Dominating league play with 31.8 points per game and guiding Dub-Nation to the best start in NBA history with a record of 31-2, the humble guard gives all credit to God.
3. Kobe Bryant- Mamba Snarl
When you desperately want something, you can’t help but express it. During the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Kobe Bryant turned into a stone cold killer on the court in his quest for his fourth championship ring. Silencing crowds with his miraculous shots and commanding the L.A. Lakers with a playoff-best 30.2 points per game, it was foolish to even think about tampering with the Black Mamba. Bryant proved why in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals after hitting a much-needed three over former Denver Nugget J.R. Smith. Giving the Lakers a 96-95 edge with 1:08 remaining thus marked the birth of the “Kobe Snarl”- a bared teeth grimace signaling defenders to lie off the three-time champion. Sucking the atmosphere out of the Pepsi Center, this fearsome facial expression became a formula for success for the veteran Bryant, propelling the Lakers to a 4-2 series victory over the Nuggets. Overcoming the pestering defense of rival Matt Barnes and the Orlando Magic, Bryant helped the Lakers bring back their fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy to the city of L.A.
2. Dikemebe Mutumbo- Finger Wag
This celebration was a trendsetter of its time. An iconic gesture featured in TV commercials and spawned by one of the greatest shot blockers of all time, hall of fame center Dikembe Mutumbo will always be recognized for his famous “No, no, no” finger wag move. Resembling the legendary Knick and former Hoya Patrick Ewing, this 7’2” big man out of Georgetown showed opponents why it was a no fly zone every time he stepped on the court. Racking up 3,289 career blocks, the second most behind Rocket great Hakeem Olajuwon, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year became a notorious figure down low. Adding his personalized finger wag every time he sent shots packing, Mutmbo became one of the NBA’s most honorable big men with his culmination of defense and respected block celebrations.
1. Michael Jordan-Tongue Sticking Out
There’s the classic shoulder shrug against the ‘92 Trail Blazers, the iconic leap after defeating the ‘89 Cavs, and his full extension free throw jumper over Byron Russell and the ’98 Utah Jazz. With all of these moments, none compare to Michael Jordan’s most signature celebration of all- the tongue wag. Fans knew a great play lied ahead whenever the Hall of Famer performed this legendary move. The six-time NBA champ takes this habit from his father, signaling a state of concentration whenever he stepped foot on the hardwood. Driving down the lane with his tongue fully out, defenders knew there was no stopping the gifted “Air Jordan”. From his infamous free-throw line slam in the 1988 Dunk Contest to his spectacular hang time layup in the Finals against Magic Johnson and the ‘91 Lakers, all these moments in history had one thing in common- the infamous Jordan tongue wag.