NBA: James Harden's latest move that looks like a travel is legal

On Tuesday, Houston Rockets guard James Harden unleashed his latest flashy NBA move that clearly looks like a travel but wasn’t called one.

The reigning league MVP used a nifty pick-up-his dribble, move-the-ball-behind-his-back, take-two-steps-then-shoot move in an exhibition game against the Shanghai Sharks.

Is this a travel?

He hit his ninth 3-pointer of the game with the move and unleashed a debate over whether, in fact he did travel.

NBA says it’s legal

NBA officials addressed the situation Wednesday, citing his “lateral 1-2 step” from his pivot foot as justification for why it was legal.

The NBA released a similar message.

Rule book doesn’t provide much clarity

While the NBA is getting out ahead of this before the season, a look at the rules doesn’t provide a definitive answer.

In fact, traveling rules — if you haven’t looked them up — don’t provide a lot of clarity in general, which explains why the violation is such a consistent source of debate in the sport.

James Harden’s latest move sure did look like a travel, but murky definitions of the rule leave the call largely up to interpretation. (Getty)

The NBA addresses traveling here and here in two equally complex but not identical explanations of the rule on its web site.

This portion of the “misunderstood rules” section of the league’s site appears to address Harden’s situation.

When ending his dribble a player may use a two count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting.


One could argue that Section II of the rulebook addressing dribbling would prohibit Harden’s move.

A player shall not run with the ball without dribbling it.

Of course a strict interpretation of that rule would warrant traveling on almost every play in basketball.

It’s a judgment call

Which brings us to the rub of why traveling is such a difficult call. As much as somebody wants to argue that they know the hard-and-fast rules on traveling and can identify the violation with absolute certainty every time, it’s not that clear cut.

Traveling is in large part a judgment call. And the NBA has judged that what Harden did on Tuesday was not a travel.

Did they get it right?

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