Travel or not: Why the James Harden step-back jumper is not a travel
James Harden is (arguably) one of the most skilled players in today's game. In fact, he was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. Harden averaged 37.0 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds in three games.
In two of those games, he tallied a triple-double. On Thursday, he had a 50-point triple-double against the Lakers. He had 50 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Harden proved why he is held in high regard. He can have a game like this at any moment.
Harden has a knack for scoring and has an array of moves to do so. But, is one of his moves illegal? James Harden has a step-back jumper that he frequently uses. It is an effective move that allows Harden to score almost every time. It is one of the strongest moves in Harden's arsenal. However, some people wonder if Harden's step-back jumper is a travel.
In Basketball, traveling is defined as a possession when a player with the ball moves one or both feet illegally. When a player travel's, the referee blows their whistle and calls traveling. This results in a turnover on the team with possession of the ball. At times, step-back jumper looks like a travel. Especially in real time rather than slow motion.
Harden's step-back jumper is an exception to the traveling rule. This is due to a section in the NBA rulebook that deals with traveling. In the Rule 10, Section XIII section, it explains why Harden can use his step-back jumper. According to the section, "A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball."
James Harden's step-back jumper includes a "gather step" that allows him to gather the ball, then take two steps.He does the "gather step" just in time to avoid traveling.
Earlier this year, Bleacher Report tweeted out a highlight of Harden doing the step-back jumper. It was during a pre-season game. In the tweet, they questioned whether Harden traveled during the play. The NBA Official league office responded with a tweet that the play in question was legal.
The step-back jumper is a signature move of James Harden. Some of us question whether the move is legal. Is James Harden a star in the NBA? Of course. So, we might think the referees are lenient on him and allow him to travel. But, according to the NBA rulebook, Harden's move is legal. As long as Harden executes the move correctly, he can avoid traveling and a turnover for his team.