- Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN Staff Writer
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The rules that govern traveling in the NBA can be more confusing that probate law. That's due, in large part, to the superhuman athleticism of guys who play the pro game. Stars like Dwyane Wade can do things with their feet while dribbling, gathering and shooting a basketball that normal human beings simply can't, which makes deconstructing the component pieces of their moves extremely difficult.
Rob Mahoney, writing for Hardwood Paroxysm, broke down Wade's game-winner over Charlotte on Wednesday night. Using the most recent publicly available version of the NBA's traveling rule, Mahoney initially determined that Wade's shot wasn't legal. Tom Haberstroh of Heat Index also examined the sequence and came to the same conclusion.
The NBA responded directly to Mahoney and Haberstroh, going so far as to create a new Twitter feed (@NBAOfficials)! They offered further explanation in a video, citing this portion of the rule book to support its claim that Wade's move was legal:
A player who comes to a stop on step one when both feet are on the floor or touch the floor simultaneously may pivot using either foot as his pivot. If he jumps with both feet he must release the ball before either foot touches the floor.
In language that accompanies the video, the league writes:
[Wade] gathers the ball w/ right foot on the floor; Step 1 when both feet hit floor simultaneously; then steps w/ right foot for Step 2.
It's rare that a player jump-stops off a gather, but Wade is a rare breed (there's a reason Mahoney has produced four installments of "Have Ball, Will Travel" featuring Wade). As Haberstroh points out, determining when the gather happens requires laser-like vision. Even with the benefit of slow-motion video, this movements are so fluid that they're almost certain to invite disparate interpretations.
Whether you agree with the league's clarification or not, everyone involved deserve praise because this is how a transparent discussion is supposed to occur: Dwayne Wade does freaky stuff. Smart people then produce findings. If those findings aren't consistent with the position of those who govern the game, then they should shed light on the dispute in question.
That's what transpired here, which is encouraging.
The rules that govern traveling in the NBA can be more confusing that probate law. That's due, in large part, to the superhuman athleticism of guys who play the pro game.