Blast from the pass

Young-Kuzma-Fox Collage
Trae Young, Kyle Kuzma and De’Aaron Fox (L-R) speak to the press at All-Star Weekend’s Media Day. (Photos by Louis Ricard, collage by Jonathan Love/MEDILL)

By Louis Ricard
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – No-looks, alley-oop, bounce, between the legs, over the head — there are so many ways to pass a basketball. While dunks and threes dominate the NBA highlights, most start the same way; with an assist.

Though times have changed and the younger generations may not remember how Jason Williams used his elbow to bounce the ball to his center while looking in another direction, the young NBA stars have not forgotten.

“Either Jason Williams or Steve Nash for sure,” Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young said about his favorite passer of all time.

The rookie averaging 7.6 assists this season is known for his ability to pass the ball anyway he can, often finding Hawks teammate John Collins near the rim. Nash and ‘White Chocolate’ found success doing that early in their careers, respectively averaging 8.5 and nearly 6 assists a game throughout their career.

But most importantly, they added flair to it, one of the main components of Young’s game.

Young grew up watching these two maestros dishing assists left and right, something that can’t be said for Jayson Tatum.

“Magic Johnson,” said Tatum, a Boston Celtic, naming one of the all-tme Los Angeles Lakers greats..

Johnson retired for good in 1996, two years before Tatum was born. Despite not being able to watch a live game on TV or in person that included Johnson, Tatum did not hesitate when asked to name his favorite passer of all time.

The two are similar physically, only separated by an inch and a few pounds at their playing weights. Johnson revolutionized the game by becoming one of the first positionless players. Tatum, on the other hand, is a scoring-first type of guard, but isn’t afraid to dish the rock.

Rising Stars Challenge MVP Kyle Kuzma is also a scoring-first power forward, and he also sees Johnson as one of the best passers of all time. “Magic, Jason Kidd, Pete Maravich,” Kuzma said.

While Jason Kidd’s passing skills are undeniable, ‘Pistol Pete,’ a prolific scorer, may not be known as the ultimate passer when going down the list of the NBA greats. However, when Maravich passed, it was often accompanied by ‘Wows’ and “Ahs” from the crowd.

Maravich is not the only unusual name that came up.

Sacramento King De’Aaron Fox mentioned Nick Van Exel, who played for the Lakers throughout the ‘90s, as his favorite.

“Someone that I’ve kinda been compared to as a lefty,” Fox said. “Someone that I kinda studied and watched his game.”

Fox and Van Exel are also similarly built, both short and quick players whose ability to increase the pace of their offense gives a hard time to opponents, no matter what generation we find ourselves in.

Fox, Young, Tatum, and Kuzma were all born between ‘95 and ‘97, and grew up watching LeBron James, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, and even Ricky Rubio throughout the 2000s. However, none of them named an active player or even the NBA assist leader John Stockton.

Who says no one ever remembers the pass before the shot?

Photo at top: Trae Young, Kyle Kuzma and De’Aaron Fox (L-R) speak to the press at All-Star Weekend’s Media Day. (Photos by Louis Ricard, collage by Jonathan Love/MEDILL)