When a defensive player forces a turnover by either pick-pocketing the ball from the ball-handler or deflecting a pass or dribble, he is said to have affected a steal. Dexterity and the ability to trace the path of the ball even before it has left the playmaker's hands is what ultimately leads to forcing a steal.
Usually, ball handlers with high basketball IQ are able to foretell the movements of the opposing team's ball movements and track them down to the last possession and play. Stealing the ball or deflecting it enough to force a turnover as well as avoiding body contact requires an elite level of adroitness. Suffocating the offence forces them to make lousy passes and/or take their eyes off the dribble, which eventually leads to transition buckets for the defensive side.
Steals are often overlooked in the clutter of throwdown dunks, swat-away blocks and long-range shooting in the fast-paced 48 minutes that basketball offers. Steals are risky in a sense that if not executed properly will leave the defender and his team looking helpless. There is no special formula or precise training involved in the art of stealing, it's just raw reflex and intuition hardwired into the playmaking fibre of naturally talented defenders.
Here are some of the all-time leaders in this particular field of defence. Let's pay them the attention and respect they so dearly deserve.
#10 Karl Malone - 2,085
Karl Malone is an unlikely entry into the top 10 all-time steals leaders, considering the fact that he stood 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 250 lbs, a body framework which does not resonate the agility required to steal the ball from the opposition.
He was a 3-time NBA All-defensive first team member(1997-99), averaging a career-high 1.9 steals per game in the 2001-02 season with the Utah Jazz. He was twice named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (1997 & 1999) and was named to the All-NBA first team a jaw-dropping 11 times.
In 2010, Malone was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.