The lost art of spinning a basketball befuddles NBA legends

NBA superstars Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry and LeBron James can do pretty much anything with a basketball — except spin it on their fingertips.

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July 9, 2024 - 3:54 PM

Joel Embiid (11) and Stephen Curry (4) of the 2024 USA Basketball Men's National Team talk at the end of a practice session during the team's training camp at the Mendenhall Center at UNLV on Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/TNS)

Joel Embiid is a former NBA MVP, a two-time league scoring champion and a seven-time All-Star.

Surely he can pull off the basic skill of spinning of basketball on his finger, right?

As Team USA prepares for the Paris Olympics that start later this month, Embiid and several other players were asked that question in an amusing video posted Sunday night on the NBA’s X account.

“No, I cannot,” Embiid answered without even attempting the trick. “Probably the only guy on the team who can’t.”

The Philadelphia 76ers center was wrong about the second part.

“I can do a lot of things with a basketball. A lot of things,” said Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, a four-time NBA champion, two-time league MVP and two-time Finals MVP. “That is the one thing that I cannot do.”

Same with Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, a two-time All-Star making his first Olympics team.

“Uh, I can give you like a half a second maybe,” Haliburton said while giving it a shot. “One one thousand, two one thousand,” he counted before losing control of the ball.

Lakers superstar LeBron James made two attempts, without much success.

“It ain’t really my thing,” the NBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

But don’t worry —  if spinning the ball on one’s finger ever gets added as an Olympic event, the U.S. should be in good hands.

Anthony Davis of the Lakers, Jrue Holiday of the Boston Celtics, Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Devin Booker and Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns were all shown pulling off the stunt, with Booker and Holiday also bouncing the spinning ball off a knee and back onto their fingers.

“As a little kid, don’t you just sit there and practice this all day?” Holiday asked.

Durant added some good-natured ribbing of some fellow Team USA players. Of Haliburton, Durant said, “The point guard don’t know how to do it?” before adding of Embiid: “That’s sickening. I thought he had more coordination than that.”

Curry called his lack of ability in that area “embarrassing” before giving it one last attempt. The spinning ball remained upright on his finger for a millisecond before tumbling off. Curry caught the ball and slammed it to the floor with a laugh.

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