In the Minnesota Timberwolves’ most recent game against the New York Knicks, Jamal Crawford hit the 2,144th 3-point shot of his career. It is a massive milestone, and for the first time in weeks, people stopped talking about his atrocious defense. To be fair, his defense isn’t doing the Wolves any favors, but Crawford is much more than a bad defender.
With that momentous shot, he passed up Paul Pierce for fifth all-time in 3-point totals.
In the next game, he scored 13 points, bringing his career total to 18,837. With this performance, he moved into 58th all-time in scoring. Currently, he is eleventh among active players.
On March 20, he celebrated his 38th birthday. Despite 18 years in the league, he shows no sign of slowing down. Sure, Crawford isn’t scoring 19 points a game anymore, but he is playing 15 fewer minutes per game. In fact, this year he has one of the best effective field goal percentages of his career.
Even at 38, Crawford is still pulling off plays that most guys in their 20s couldn’t even manage. Just this week, he made an incredibly tough shot as he was flying out of bounds at the buzzer.
Jamal Crawford made this, because of course he did. pic.twitter.com/zddFQEDUFh— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 24, 2018
Buzzer beaters are one of Crawford’s specialties. He has taken 162 shots from over 35 feet away, the second most in NBA history. Only Andre Miller has attempted more, with 166 heaves. Out of his such attempts, Crawford has made ten. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it ties him for the most in NBA history with Jason Kidd.
When asked about his affinity for half-court heaves by Michael Rand of the Star Tribune, Crawford said, “It’s weird because when I first came into the NBA, some people close to me were like, ‘Don’t shoot that shot, it will mess up your percentage.’ But I think if you look at it like that, it’s selfish. Sure, you can be worried about your own percentage but if that shot goes in, it’s a boost for your team and your crowd. I’ve seen that shot change the momentum of games.”
Crossovers and confidence
The buzzer beaters are a part of the legend of Jamal Crawford, but there’s more to it. He just plays differently than other guys. There’s no explosiveness or power in his game; he gets to the hoop by his cunningness alone. Nicknamed “J-Crossover” for his incredible ankle-breaking abilities, he slithers around defenders with mind-boggling maneuvers.
Sometimes these tricky moves can lead to spectacular fails, but no one can say he wasn’t trying. That’s another part of his story: his fearless, passionate style of play.
Crawford plays with boundless energy, never doubting himself on crazy crossovers or tough shots. “I won’t feel like I’m hot unless I make five straight shots,” Crawford’s former teammate Chauncey Billups said, per Mark Heisler of the New York Times. “A guy like Jamal, it’s like one or two shots and everybody watch out, the show is starting.
“You have to have a heightened confidence to play that way,” Billups continued. “Everybody in the NBA has confidence, but they don’t have that.”
It’s this confidence in attempting contested shots that have made him famous for his 4-point plays. He has made 54 such plays in his career, shattering NBA records. The next closest player, J.J. Redick, has just 34.
Despite Crawford’s gutsy play, he’s never let his ego get in the way of his team’s success. While many players find a bench role insulting, Crawford has found a way to capitalize on it, to drastically alter the course of the game despite limited minutes. He’s the NBA’s first and only three-time winner of the Sixth Man of the Year Award. That’s another part of his complex legacy: his excellence as a teammate.
Two years ago, Jamal Crawford put up 32 points in a desperate effort to keep the injury-ridden Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs. It wasn’t enough, and they lost a heart-wrenching Game Six to the Portland Trail Blazers. Austin Rivers, face swollen from 11 stitches obtained during the game, took to the podium to speak about Crawford’s impact.
“He’s the best teammate I’ve ever had, man,” Rivers said, voice cracking. “A lot of people doubted me when I came to L.A. a year ago. People thought I was just getting a chance because of my father. Jamal believed in me, man.”
When Crawford faced his old Clippers’ teammates as opponents this year, the response was nothing but appreciative.
“He was great,” Jordan added. “A veteran like that who’s able to score the basketball and be a true professional man. I was lucky to play with him.”
Jamal Crawford is many things: a half-court-heaver, a crossover fanatic, a 4-point play master, a superlative teammate, and yes, a terrible defender. It’s time to appreciate him for what he is, instead of complaining about what he’s not.
Crawford is at the age now when many players start to think about retirement. It’s hard to imagine, a league without J-Crossover’s reckless moves and sweet handles. When asked by Chris Ballard this summer about a potential end to his career, he said he could play “for four or five more years and after that, who knows, maybe four or five more.” That would make him easily the oldest player in the history of the NBA, but for the ageless wonder, anything is possible. Hopefully, we will be seeing Jamal Crawford’s signature crossovers for many more years to come.