Steph Curry’s Trainer Explains Why The James Harden Behind-The-Back Move Isn’t A Travel

For his ninth three of the night against “The Lonely Master” and his Shanghai Sharks, James Harden pulled off a viral-worthy, behind-the-back move that had the internet arguing if it was a travel and Golden State Warriors fans saying, “Steph did it first!”

Back in 2016, Steph Curry pulled it off during a practice and Mike Prada of SB Nation discussed the origin and purpose of the move with Steph’s trainer, Brandon Payne. During their 20-minute conversation, Payne explained why it’s not a travel if executed correctly.

How is it not a travel? Isn’t he picking up both pivot feet?

[Laughs]. So I only watched him once or twice last night, though it’s something I’ve seen a thousand times before.

If it was a right-to-left crossover, he’d sidestep off his left foot into the shot. If you watch closely when he’s crossing the ball over, as the ball hits the ground, his left foot is hitting the ground into his side step. That’s a dribble into the side step, so he leaves off one foot and lands on two. That’s like any other sidestep or any other Eurostep.

This is just off one leg and landing on two into his shot. He’s not going to travel because when he sidesteps, he’s sidestepping off a dribble.

When did you first think he could try this move?

We’re always looking for new ways to transfer the basketball from the floor into the shooting motion, and we’re always looking for ways to protect the basketball. That was something that was born out of moves he makes going to the basket, and we just expanded and build onto it on the perimeter as well.

It’s something that can be used when a man is guarding him really, really tightly, where he can switch from the left side of his body to the right side of his body in tight situation and still get a very good, clean shot off.

So the genesis is more as he’s driving and changing direction, and not necessarily him stepping back for a three?

Sure. It certainly can be used in that way. But honestly, we’ve worked on this for a really long time. It’s taken him a little while to get really comfortable with it, and right now during training camp and during practices, it’s time for him to really test these things out and see how comfortable he is with it. Then, we have to make the decision whether or not he’s feeling comfortable enough to use it in a game.

But it’s just a part of the things we do in terms of ball-handling. It’s part of our shooting series. It’s part of our driving series. Again, it’s just a way to transfer the ball from one side of the body to the other side, get him off the floor, get him into his shot position as quickly as possible in terms of ball security. He makes it look easier than it really is.

Back to the behind-the-back move. How do you drill the footwork to make it work?

It’s something that we’ve done over the years, honestly. We do a lot of overloading his body. We overload the moves with a little bit of light resistance at different points on his body, and that helps his body learn new footwork and new spacing techniques a little bit quicker. Anytime you add resistance to anything, it really aids in muscle memory. So over the years, we’ve added resistance in different ways for different moves.

His body — once it’s in there, it’s locked in. He never forgets. He has impeccable footwork. He’s incredibly, incredibly efficient with the ball and with his feet. In the past, it was more “Hey, we’re going to teach this.” Now, it’s more about drilling him because it’s all recall for him. When your footwork is as good as his, you can get a little more creative and a little more aggressive with how you’re moving the basketball from side to side and getting from the floor to the shoot.

So a lot of that is just the result of a lot of hard work over all the offseason. Now, he’s able to get a little more aggressive and a little more creative.

You can read the full interview with Payne at SB Nation.

And here’s the NBA explaining why it’s NOT a travel.

If you say so.

Here are a few clips of other people doing the move before Harden.

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