If there were a statistic for stunning moves per minute played, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant would surely lead the league. Bryant, a 6'7" guard, has the ball handling skills to lose a defender off the dribble, the body control to slither around opponents and put up a soft shot, and the jumping ability to improvise in the air. "Nobody can guard Kobe one-on-one," says Lakers coach Del Harris. "Nobody."
But a decade from now will there be one move that will be instantly identified as Bryant's? Probably not. Many of the league's young stars, like Bryant, 19, and Boston Celtics forward Antoine Walker, 21, rely more on a variety of moves—and the ability to create a new one in a split second—than they do on a single, bread-and-butter maneuver. Bryant, for instance, is a master of the double pump, avoiding the potential blocked shot by hanging in the air and shooting while he's on his way down, but he's just as likely to use a spin move to get to the basket or a between-the-legs dribble and a shoulder fake to free himself for a jump shot. Walker has similar versatility, and at 6'9" and 245 pounds he has the size and the strength to include low-post moves in his arsenal.
But there are some potential signature moves emerging among the younger generation. Opponents come away muttering about New Jersey Nets rookie forward Keith Van Horn's deceptive first step, which seems to get him from the foul line to the baseline. Detroit Pistons fourth-year forward Grant Hill has a subtle hesitation move that he uses on the fast break to freeze a defender. Stephon Marbury, the Minnesota Timberwolves' 21-year-old point guard, has a knack for finding the trailer on the break and then leaving a little drop pass for him.
Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs' rookie forward-center, is a human how-to book of low-post moves, and his ability to finish with either hand may be the most distinctive part of his game. While Duncan uses finesse and technique, other young big men rely more on speed and power. The baseline spin is among the most popular weapons in this group, which includes Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, 21, and fifth-year forward Chris Webber of the Washington Wizards.
Some of the newcomers to the league will no doubt eventually develop moves that will come to be identified with them. But for now many of them are willing to flout the conventional wisdom that a consistent NBA scorer needs a pet move he can go to repeatedly. "You have to have a lot of things in your bag that you can pull out," says Bryant. "You might practice certain things, but all the really good moves are spontaneous."