Basketball goes through phases. Every few years, it evolves, and what was once a new trend grows into a linchpin. Looking back, it’s difficult to recognize what some of the changes may have been because they’ve become so commonplace. The dunk, pioneered by Wilt Chamberlain, was a huge innovation. As were Kareem’s skyhook and Jordan’s fadeaway. The crossover, as further popularized by Allen Iverson, was the most recent thing to take the NBA by storm.
Now, it’s the Euro-step, and its revolution is being televised.
Sarunas Marciulionis, a Lithuanian native drafted in 1989, was one of the first Europeans in the NBA and has largely been credited with bringing the move across the Atlantic. It’s a beautiful move when executed properly, one that, when done with grace, can mimic a Waltz maneuver. After picking up the ball, you get two steps. Typically, players used those steps to continue with their forward momentum. The Euro-step, however, allows for a change of direction. Instead of taking two forward steps, the first step is an exaggerated step in one direction; the second is a near-return to the original path. It’s almost a lateral move. In a New York Times article about the move, NBA trainer David Thorpe made a great observation: “Americans tend to play in straight lines, where Europeans are craftier going around a guy.”
The biggest advantage is that it lets players avoid contact, which is what made the move revolutionary. In many ways, it has completely changed transition offense and dribble penetration. Players can no longer take charges! Instead, defenders are left completely frozen. While Marcilinois may have been the inaugural ambassador, the San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili truly popularized it, working the Euro-step to perfection for much of the past 10 years.