Commentary

A tiny oral history: The viral James Harden crossover

Originally Published: March 12, 2018
By Jovan Buha, Tim MacMahon and Law Murray | ESPN

It began like so many Rockets possessions.

James Harden dribbled upcourt with Houston leading the LA Clippers 28-7 in what would ultimately be a 105-92 road victory for the Rockets. Harden began to drive to his left as Clippers defender Wesley Johnson tried to keep up. And then ... rest in peace, Wesley Johnson's ankles. Harden's brutal crossover left Johnson on his rear end, and Harden stepped back, stared at Johnson on the ground and drilled a 3 that got the Rockets bench on its feet, left the Staples Center abuzz and rocked Twitter.

Here's how one of the season's most memorable -- and meme-worthy -- moments went down.

James Harden and Wesley JohnsonESPN Illustration

CLIPPER DARRELL, LONGTIME CLIPPERS SUPERFAN AND SEASON-TICKET HOLDER WHO WAS IN THE STANDS FOR THE FEB. 28 GAME: Are you talking about the play where James Harden traveled and pushed off? Come on, man. I'm a big James Harden fan. But everybody saw that forearm that he threw out, and the three steps he took going backward before he hit the 3.

TREVOR ARIZA, ROCKETS SMALL FORWARD WHO RAN DOWN THE SIDELINES AFTER THE CROSSOVER: The fact that [Johnson] was on the ground, that was the part that got me out of my seat. We see James do that all the time, get separation and space, but not often do guys, like, touch the ground.

JAMES HARDEN, ROCKETS MVP CANDIDATE: It was probably my best move, just because of how much time I had. There's other moves where you make a great move, and then you've got to either make a shot or do another move right after. But I had so much time in between.

PJ TUCKER, ROCKETS SMALL FORWARD: I don't think it would have been as bad if Wes would have just got up real fast. But Wes just sat there and he smiled and kind of laughed.

CLINT CAPELA, ROCKETS CENTER: It happens a lot that players get crossed and somebody falls. But that second was special.

HARDEN: I was just trying to figure out what he was doing. I didn't know. I was looking at him, and he was looking at me. I was thinking, What are you doing? I was going to shoot it, but I was waiting to figure out what was going on. I was confused. And then, obviously, I shot it.

CAPELA: We were shocked that [Harden] waited, but the shot has to go in to be worth anything. And when the ball went up, I was like, "If this goes in, it's something special." And it went in. We were like, "Oh my gaawwdd. Bam!"

WESLEY JOHNSON, CLIPPERS SMALL FORWARD: I was just thinking, "Next play." People oohed and aahed, but it's just on to the next play.

CLIPPER DARRELL: People were saying they lost respect for Wes because he ran back down the court laughing. But it was funny, because you get pushed and don't get the foul call, and it's like, come on, ref. It's nothing to be embarrassed about.

JOHNSON: Stuff like that happens. Somebody gets dunked on, somebody falls down, it's going to go viral. Social media is undefeated right now.

TARIK BLACK, ROCKETS CENTER: I've got to stay out of this one. Wes is my boy. He took care of me when I was a rookie [with the Lakers]. It was a great move, a great move. But yeah, I can't.

MIKE D'ANTONI, ROCKETS COACH: James does things that are ridiculous. He does incredible things. He's a very gifted player offensively, obviously. ... The game was over [after the Harden crossover]. James put it away.

CLIPPER DARRELL: James, I love you, man. But you're not welcome at Staples anymore. Leave my Clippers alone.

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