The 15 Greatest Ball-Handlers In NBA History

Discover the best NBA ball-handlers of all time with this list of the 15 greatest in league history. Learn about each player’s unique skill set, and how they rose to the top of the sport

The 15 Greatest Ball-Handlers In NBA History

The NBA has witnessed its fair share of incredible ball-handlers over the years, and today we’re going to celebrate the 15 players who stand out as some of the greatest in the history of the game.

From the early days of Bob Cousy to the modern wizardry of Kyrie Irving, these players have not only dazzled us with their ball-handling skills but have also left an indelible mark on the sport.

  1. Kyrie Irving
  2. Allen Iverson
  3. Isiah Thomas
  4. Pete Maravich
  5. Jason Williams
  6. Tim Hardaway
  7. Jamal Crawford
  8. Stephen Curry
  9. Steve Nash
  10. James Harden
  11. Chris Paul
  12. Magic Johnson
  13. Nick Van Exel
  14. Walt Frazier
  15. Bob Cousy

1. Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving Mavs
Kyrie Irving – Dallas Mavs

Topping our list is Kyrie Irving, whose ball-handling skills are nothing short of mesmerizing. Irving’s ability to control the ball with an artistic flow, combined with his incredible body control, agility, and quickness, makes him the most aesthetically pleasing ball-handler in NBA history. His dazzling array of moves, spins, and fakes leaves defenders bewildered, and his finishing ability around the rim is second to none.

Early Life and Background

Born on March 23, 1992, in Melbourne, Australia, Kyrie Irving’s early life was anything but ordinary. His father, Drederick Irving, was a professional basketball player, and his mother, Elizabeth Larson, was a volleyball player. Irving’s family had a deep-rooted connection to sports, which played a pivotal role in shaping his future.

Hoops Journey Begins

Irving’s journey in basketball commenced at a young age when he moved to the United States with his family. He honed his skills at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey, where he quickly gained recognition for his exceptional talents on the court. This period marked the beginning of his basketball stardom, he found his first sponsors in the person of 1xBet a company specializing in gambling, thanks to advertising he was able to gain popularity and advance in his career.

Duke University and the NCAA

After high school, Kyrie Irving attended Duke University for a brief stint before declaring for the NBA draft. His time at Duke was marked by impressive performances, including a memorable game against Michigan State in which he scored 31 points. Despite playing just 11 games for Duke, his talent was undeniable.

2. Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers
Allen Iverson – Philadelphia 76ers

If not for Kyrie Irving, Allen Iverson would have easily claimed the top spot. Iverson’s crossover is legendary, and he had the quickness of a cheetah on the court. Standing at just 6 feet tall, Iverson’s lethal first step led him to four NBA scoring titles and an MVP award in 2001. His moves were so devastating that the NBA had to change rules to try to contain him.

Early Life and Struggles

Born on June 7, 1975, in Hampton, Virginia, Allen Ezail Iverson faced adversity from a young age. Raised in a tough neighborhood, he encountered numerous challenges but showed early signs of basketball talent.

Rising Star in High School

Iverson’s remarkable skills earned him a scholarship to Bethel High School, where he quickly gained recognition as one of the best high school basketball players in the country. His electrifying style of play and scoring ability set him apart from his peers.

College Years and Georgetown University

After high school, Iverson played college basketball for the Georgetown Hoyas. Despite his relatively short stature for a basketball player, he led the team to great success, showcasing his scoring prowess and defensive tenacity.

NBA Draft and Philadelphia 76ers

In 1996, Allen Iverson declared for the NBA Draft and was selected as the first overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. This marked the beginning of a remarkable NBA career.

NBA Career Highlights

  • Rookie of the Year: Iverson burst onto the scene, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award in the 1996-1997 season.
  • Scoring Titles: “The Answer” led the league in scoring for four seasons, solidifying his reputation as one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.
  • MVP and Finals Appearance: Iverson’s incredible skills and leadership earned him the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the 2000-2001 season. He also led the 76ers to the NBA Finals that same year.
  • Crossover Dribble: Iverson’s crossover dribble became legendary, often leaving defenders baffled and spectators in awe.

3. Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas Detroit Pistons
Isiah Thomas – Detroit Pistons

Isiah Thomas revolutionized ball-handling with his use of crossovers and direction changes. He combined speed, lateral movement, and a supersonic burst toward the hoop, making him nearly impossible to predict. Thomas introduced the machine-gun dribble, a move that left defenders reaching in vain.

The Early Days of Isiah

Isiah Thomas, born on April 30, 1961, in Chicago, Illinois, began his basketball journey in the heart of the Windy City. Raised in a challenging environment, he discovered his passion for the sport at a young age.

High School Phenom

Thomas attended St. Joseph High School, where his incredible talent quickly became evident. He led his team to a state championship and earned numerous accolades, foreshadowing a remarkable future.

College Years at Indiana

Isiah’s college career saw him play for the Indiana Hoosiers. His leadership and skills were instrumental in securing an NCAA championship for the Hoosiers in 1981, solidifying his status as a basketball prodigy.

4. Pete Maravich

Pete Maravich was ahead of his time with his dazzling array of pull-up jumpers, no-look passes, ball fakes, and wraparound dribbles. His style of play would fit seamlessly in today’s NBA, and his influence can be seen in many modern ball handlers.

Early Life and Family Background

Pete Maravich’s journey to basketball greatness began in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, on June 22, 1947. He was born into a basketball family, with his father, Press Maravich, being a successful college basketball coach. Pete’s early exposure to the game laid the foundation for his future success.

The Formative Years on the Court

Maravich honed his basketball skills from a young age, spending countless hours dribbling, passing, and shooting. His extraordinary dedication and work ethic set him apart, even as a child. By the time he reached high school, it was evident that he was destined for greatness.

College Career at LSU

Pete Maravich attended Louisiana State University (LSU), where he became a college basketball sensation. His scoring prowess was unmatched, and he set numerous NCAA records during his time at LSU. Maravich’s college career was a glimpse into the basketball wizardry that would define his professional years.

The NBA Journey

In 1970, Pete Maravich was selected as the third overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. His arrival in the NBA was highly anticipated, and he did not disappoint. Maravich quickly became known for his flashy style of play, incredible ball-handling skills, and scoring ability.

5. Jason Williams

Jason Williams
Jason Williams – All Star Game NBA 2017

Jason “White Chocolate” Williams had a collection of highlight reels that still amaze fans today. His unpredictability on the court left defenders and spectators in awe. Williams was a master of hesitation crossovers and behind-the-back passes, bringing a unique flair to the game.

Early Life and Background

Born on November 18, 1975, in Belle, West Virginia, Jason Williams exhibited a passion for basketball from a young age. Raised in a supportive and sports-loving family, he honed his skills on the local courts and quickly stood out as a prodigious talent.

High School Glory

Jason Williams attended DuPont High School, where his basketball prowess began to shine. He earned the nickname “White Chocolate” for his flashy style of play and exceptional ball-handling skills. Williams led his high school team to a state championship, capturing the attention of scouts and college recruiters.

College Career at Marshall

After high school, Williams enrolled at Marshall University, where he continued to impress with his skills. During his time at Marshall, he averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 assists per game, showcasing his ability to both score and create opportunities for his teammates.

Sacramento Kings

In 1998, Jason Williams declared for the NBA Draft and was selected seventh overall by the Sacramento Kings. His arrival in the NBA was highly anticipated, and he did not disappoint. Williams quickly became a fan favorite with his dazzling passes and no-look assists, earning a reputation as one of the most exciting players in the league.

Challenges and Growth

While his talent was undeniable, Williams faced challenges early in his career, including turnovers and defensive struggles. However, he worked diligently to improve his game, and under the guidance of coach Rick Adelman, he blossomed into a more well-rounded player.

6. Tim Hardaway

Tim Hardaway’s Killer Crossover is still one of the most devastating moves in NBA history. His strength and agility allowed him to slice through defenses, leaving defenders in his wake. Hardaway inspired a generation of ball-handling guards in the 1990s.

7. Jamal Crawford

Even in his 40s, Jamal Crawford’s athleticism and ball control are remarkable. His exaggerated crossover and quick dribble moves made him a nightmare for defenders. Crawford’s ability to create space with flash and style is unparalleled.

8. Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry combines elite shooting with incredible ball-handling skills. His quick lateral and vertical movement, along with precision, create scoring opportunities at all levels of the offense. Curry has redefined the point guard position with his offensive prowess.

9. Steve Nash

Steve Nash Los Angeles Lakers
Steve Nash – Los Angeles Lakers

Steve Nash may not wow you with flash, but his fundamental and efficient ball-handling made him one of the best. His ability to run offenses with speed and precision led to two league MVP awards and a legacy as one of the top point guards in NBA history.

10. James Harden

James Harden’s ball-handling ability enabled him to have one of the greatest offensive stretches in NBA history. His control of the ball and scoring prowess made him a three-time scoring champion. Harden’s stepback three and Euro step were nearly impossible to defend.

11. Chris Paul

Chris Paul’s balance and versatility as a ball-handler set him apart. His ability to keep his dribble alive and break down defenders with crossovers and hesitation moves is remarkable. Paul’s IQ and handles continue to shine, even as he ages.

12. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson’s handles may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but he was a master of fast-break playmaking. His ability to navigate traffic with simplicity and precision, combined with his low turnover rate, made him an elite ball-handler.

13. Nick Van Exel

Nick Van Exel’s unorthodox approach to ball-handling, combined with his speed and control, made him a unique threat on the court. His ability to create space for outside shots set him apart, earning him an All-Star appearance in 1998.

14. Walt Frazier

Walt Frazier’s ball-handling skills and decision-making were crucial to the success of the New York Knicks in the 1970s. His combination of speed, control, and situational awareness made him one of the best point guards of his era.

15. Bob Cousy

Bob Cousy, known as “The Houdini of the Hardwood,” was a pioneer of ball-handling during the 1950s and 60s. He had the ability to confuse defenders while adhering to strict dribbling rules. Cousy’s creativity and court vision made him a six-time NBA champion and a true legend of the game.

These 15 players not only displayed incredible ball-handling skills but also had a profound impact on the way the game is played. They were pioneers, artists, and innovators, and their contributions to the sport will always be celebrated.


The art of ball-handling in the NBA is a mesmerizing spectacle. These 15 players showcased their unique styles and left an indelible mark on the game. From Kyrie Irving’s artistic flow to Allen Iverson’s deadly crossover, each player brought their own flair to the court, forever changing the way we appreciate the beauty of basketball.


Who is the greatest ball-handler in NBA history?

Kyrie Irving is widely regarded as the greatest ball-handler in NBA history, thanks to his mesmerizing dribbling skills and incredible finesse on the court.

Who had the deadliest crossover in NBA history?

Allen Iverson’s crossover is often considered the deadliest in NBA history. It left defenders helpless and became his trademark move.

Which era produced the best ball-handlers in the NBA?

The NBA has seen exceptional ball-handlers in every era, but the modern era has witnessed an evolution in dribbling skills, with players like Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

How did Pete Maravich influence modern ball-handlers?

Pete Maravich’s innovative moves and creativity with the basketball set the stage for modern ball-handlers to incorporate flashy dribbling techniques into their game.

Who is the most underrated ball-handler on this list?

Nick Van Exel’s unorthodox approach to ball-handling and ability to create space for outside shots make him one of the most underrated ball-handlers in NBA history.

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