Latest News, NBA / Sep 28, 2011 / 11:30 am

The Top 10 Assists In NBA History

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo (photo. Gary Land)

A nice dish may be the most underrated play in basketball. Obsessing over a dunk or a crossover is common, but how often do you really see a one-of-a-kind assist? Very rarely. They’re always overblown and overhyped. A no-look pass is almost never that. We almost never get a truly breathtaking pass because lets face it, no one practices passing. Kids go to the gym and work on ballhandling for hours – crossovers, behind-the-backs and through-the-legs. Then some Plyometrics or squats because we all want to dunk and we all want to walk into a gym and get instant cred. No one respects a pass; Everyone respects a dunk.

Even on YouTube, rarely will you find a single assist sitting with its own video, and yet you can go on and find even the plainest facials getting the all-star solo treatment (which is ironic because there are millions of different passes. How many different dunks have you seen?). That made this list so hard… going through countless top 10 mixes instead of single clips. So I knew going in this would be infinitely more difficult than the Top 10 Alley-Oops list. But I think I did this enough justice.

Chicagorilla gave me the idea to make this list in a recent Smack, and I decided to run with it. We have the time. The lockout isn’t going anywhere. There were a few other top 10 lists that were on my plate, but I held off on them to try to tame this beast. And just like the top 10 alley-oop list, I had to come up with a few rules:

1) The pass had to end in a bucket
2) It had to be done in a regular season NBA game (sorry J-Will, your elbow pass would’ve been top five)
3) And it had to be from one teammate to another (no self-passes off the backboard)

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Jason Williams and Jason Kidd were some of the first names I came up with while starting this idea. While they’re all mentioned, I decided immediately this wasn’t going to be a “Greatest passes by the best players ever” list. If Matt Maloney made a pass that left me wide-eyed, he was making the cut. It wasn’t going to matter whether it was him or John Stockton. Names would count for nothing.

So with that, here are the 10 greatest assists of all-time (and Honorable Mentions):


The Best Of The Rest:
LeBron James‘ Behind-The-Back (at 3:20 mark)
LeBron James‘ Over-The-Head (at 2:54 mark)
Jason Williams‘ No-Look Drop Off (1:50 mark)
Jason Williams‘ Behind-The-Back (1:03 mark)
Jason Kidd‘s Wild Behind-The-Back (at 3:00 mark)
Jason Kidd‘s Unique Scoop
Larry Bird‘s Over-The-Head (at 4:00 mark)


10. Steve Nash’s Wraparound (at 1:54 mark)
Number one on this video is pretty crazy too. But Nash’s wraparound to Amar’e Stoudemire in the playoffs is just too good. He has his entire body facing out of bounds with nowhere to go and Tim Duncan directly behind him. So Nash does the only sensible thing, and that’s to cuff the ball with his arms completely outstretched and whip it backwards behind TD without looking, in the hope that Amar’e will still be sitting there 10-15 feet away wide open.

9. Joe Dumars’ Out-Of-Bounds Save (at 3:51 mark)
…At least I think that’s Dumars. Why isn’t this higher? Because I’m convinced Joe D wasn’t actually trying to make that pass, but rather just saving the ball inbounds and trying to get it to some general area. It just happened to set up Dennis Rodman for an easy dunk and became one of the best passes ever.

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  • north

    Does anyone have a link for that Lamar Odom rebound assist to Kobe from a couple years back? Someone needs to remind DIME how sick that was.

  • Soopa

    Great piece!

    Sitting here thinking about how obsessed we are with blocks, dunks and handles. I cant even argue these picks because i cant off the top of my head name 5 passes that i think were snubbed. Just being honest…

    Most importantly tho': How about the music in the Pistol Pete clip?

  • s.bucketz

    get off rondo`s sack…that was a good pass but not top 10 all time…rubio`s shit in euroleague is way more impressive and he shoots jus as horribly as rondo

  • Sean Sweeney


    You talking about this one?


    It was pretty nice.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    John Stockton… don’t remember the season, and I don’t remember the opponent.
    Opposing team just scored, he’s bringing up the ball, fumbles it and has to turn arund to recover… the defense swarms him… 3 dudes are on his ass trying to rip the ball from him… aware of the 10 secong clock winding down, he through the pass over his head to a wide open teammate on the other side of the court. Basket.
    After the game he was asked how he managed to throw the pass to his teammates. He responded (and I’m paraphrasing), “I knew 3 defenders were on me trying to get the ball and none of my teammates were around. I knew I had numbers on our end so I just passed the ball.” Brilliant. As a math guy, I totally appreciate that shit. Lol

    Another one… Iverson pass between Grant Hill’s legs (as he was running) to the lead guy on a fast break. I think it was 2 seasons ago.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    ^ through = threw

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    I need more White Chocolate!

  • north

    @Sean Sweeney
    You have to make an amendment for that Lamar one… you know you missed it.

  • Sean Sweeney

    ^^ @north

    That was one of the ones I thought about putting in, but didn’t think it was better than any of these.

  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    LOL@ me and my friends going over pick and roll situations while we’re all drunk

    i love passing and much prefer it over scoring cause it usually takes less energy. personally i cant wait to have a kid so i can show him how to pass, when to pass, and how to create easy buckets by passing and using the defenders spacing and help defense against him.

  • yoda

    best pass i’ve ever seen was sasa djordjevic, it was world cup or olypic games, playing against china. he started behind the back pass with his right hand, but he wiped the ball around his stomach so instead of ball going on his left side, he did behind the back pass with his right hand and throw a ball to his right side. best part after was when camera showed chinese bench, they were amazed and they were showing each other what sasa just did.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    ^^ Fail

    Yoda, did you read the article or just skipped ahead and watched the vids. There’s 3 rules. Read ‘em.

  • sonic

    Speaking of nice passes, how about the kid Darius Morris? I think he’s got potential to be the lakers’ future PG

    This whole mix is nice, but check 3:22


  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    thanks for the post sonic

  • Big Island

    I can’t wait to get home to watch these. I am stuck at a friend’s house and their computer won’t play videos for crap. Whic is dumb because he is a friggin film editor!

  • hooper5013

    That Jason Williams pass in the honorable mention the one at 1:54 seconds is mind blowing. The footwork, the fact that he hadn’t peeped the recipient in about 5 dribbles…thats my favorite pass ever, but I really have no problem with this list other than that, but its not an error, I just love that pass. Good post Dime

  • http://www.glidehoyas.blogspot.com Kent
  • cesar


  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    Good call on Morris.
    I’m a huge fan of Kendall Marshall… he’s always looking for teammates. I don’t understand why there’s not any reels of this kid.


  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    Found one… it’s all from one game but it’s the longest “reel” on youtube.

    His passes are so soft. And his post-entry passes are EXACTLY where they need to be.


  • http://www.glidehoyas.blogspot.com Kent

    Jay I see his dad almost everyday on my home from work I told him his son was the best guard out there in the college game, he’s definitely up there…

  • Jason

    This one was awesome. It was AI’s bounce pass through grant hills legs to RIP.


  • http://www.geturweightup.com Chicagorilla


    This is off the chain man. As a former PG myself, I always loved the art of passing. It was my 2nd favorite part of basketball next to defense. I agree with all the top 10, because its so hard to make a list like this. Magics pass at #1 nearly brings a tear to my eye. The guy literally did not look while throwing that pass. Thats is ri-got damn-diculous.

    Here is one of my favorite passes that i tried duplicating as a ball player growing up. It’s from one of the greatest basketball VHS tapes of all time lol. NBA JAM session. We watched this every day in the summer before we went outside to hoop or have dunk contest on the lowered rims. It’s Michael Adams with the double around the back pass.



  • http://www.geturweightup.com Chicagorilla


    Man you are spitting the truth on Ken Marshall. As a UNC fan, I didn’t see what was so special about the kid at first. To me, he was another over hyped UNC player. But when they finally gave him the starting job, that kid just took it to another level. It may seem a little silly, but yes his post entry passes are a thing of beauty. Not just the pass, but the position, the timing and accuracy. The guy makes the game so easy for his teammates. If he works on his shooting he could be a UNC legend and a high pick in the draft.

    My best pass as a player would have made this list lol. playing on my training base in Biloxi, MS for my training squad (shout out to the 333rd!!!) I threw a full court pass with a spin on it that look as if it was going out of bounds, but once it hit the floor it bounced perfectly to my teammate flying in from the right who caught it and dunked it. I couldn’t believe I threw the pass and I was even more suprised that that shit worked lmfao. Game play stopped for a second while everybody tried to figure out what they saw. I of course played it off like it was some shit i did all the time.

    Which one is a better feeling, a great pass that fools everyone on the court, dunking on or over someone with a body to body facial dunk, hitting a vic with a cross who then falls on the court, pinning someones shit on the glass/catching the block out the air, or making a bunch of jumpers in a row from long range. They all give you that feeling that can’t be duplicated anywhere else. Damn I feel like going to play ball RIGHT NOW at 12am….

  • yoda

    @ JAY

    i’ve read the rules, thats why i didn’t try to post link to that pass. i was just saying, that pass was something unbelievable

  • K Dizzle

    Nick Van Exel. 0:45 mark
    Wasn’t even necessary, only cuz Nick brought flavor like that
    That is all…

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    @ Chi: “Man you are spitting the truth on Ken Marshall. As a UNC fan, I didn’t see what was so special about the kid at first. To me, he was another over hyped UNC player. But when they finally gave him the starting job, that kid just took it to another level. It may seem a little silly, but yes his post entry passes are a thing of beauty. Not just the pass, but the position, the timing and accuracy. The guy makes the game so easy for his teammates. If he works on his shooting he could be a UNC legend and a high pick in the draft.”

    ^ Agree, like a muthaf****r. UNC’s season turned around last year when Marshall was given the starting job. And it’s no coincidence that Barnes’ play improved after that point as well. With the addition of Davis, which gives Marshall another weapon, UNC is going to be a force this season. They might be the most exciting teams this year because they have an elite passer in Marshall, and athletes in every other position. I’m excited for this year’s collegiate season.

    Hopefully DIME will start previewing the college season soon, because I’m getting sick and tired of the lockout crap. They only thing I want to hear about the lockout is, “it’s over, back to work”.
    So, Dime… can you guys please pen some articles on the upcoming collegiate season? Thanks.

  • http://www.wtf.com Chicagorilla


    If you guys are going to do a college preview, please don’t just regurgitate info from other websites. It’s so much better when you form your own opinions.
    I know its much harder with college since there are so many teams, but at least get multiple opinions on a team and consider that some West coast teams will actually be pretty good.

  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    i wanna see these top 10s:

    top 10 flops
    top 10 dirty plays/players
    top 10 flagarant fouls
    top 10 on court fights
    top 10 1 player going coast to coast
    top 10 missed dunks/layups
    top 10 dunks with head bop from dunker

  • http://www.dimemag.com panchitoooo

    LOL@doing something amazing on the court and making as if it was nothing