Besides being the best basketball league in the world, the NBA also features some of the best player celebrations, which fans all over copy while playing pick-up basketball.
LeBron James‘ ‘silencer’, Stephen Curry sending people to sleep, Carmelo Anthony’s three-point celebration, Dikembe Mutombo’s finger wag and, of course, the Michael Jordan ‘shrug’, still popular so many years later, are some of the most iconic player celebrations in the Association.
There are many more that we haven’t even mentioned yet, which you can check out below.
Here’s a gallery of the best NBA signature player celebrations in history. Which are your favorites?
It’s rare that it takes as long as it did for Stephen Curry to add his signature celebration but at least it’s a great one, as Curry will now mimic a sleeping motion with his hands after hitting a huge shot to signify how he’s putting his opponents to sleep after sealing up a Golden State Warriors win.
Steph's reaction after this bucket 😳 pic.twitter.com/qoOgsyskVD
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 22, 2022
We haven’t seen this one in a while, which is a shame because LeBron James’ ‘Silencer’ celebration was one of the coolest NBA player signature celebrations out there. It became so popular that even some NFL players would use it after scoring a touchdown.
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) February 12, 2023
The iconic Jordan ‘Shrug’, which came to be in the 1992 NBA Finals when Jordan, never known for his three-point shooting, went unconscious from three, prompting him to look over at Magic Johnson, who was calling the game, and shrug innocently as if to say even he had no idea what was going on.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 3, 2018
One of the strongest NBA players today, Giannis Antetokounmpo likes to let opponents know how strong he is by flexing at them after a dunk or an and-1.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was just ejected for…mean mugging following a dunk.
A superstar showing the kind of emotion that makes him beloved by the fans who paid to see him tonight.
How does this happen?
— Stephen Watson (@SWatsonTV) November 9, 2023
A very memorable player celebration, Carmelo Anthony would hold up three fingers and tap his temple three times after hitting a three-pointer, but would do so almost stoically at times to let opponents know how light of work they were for Anthony.
— ️️️Aulty (@aulty) August 22, 2016
Probably the most iconic player celebration of all time simply due to how memorable it was, Dikembe Mutombo’s infamous finger wag would be unleashed after Mutombo would block a shot. This celebration still pops up today from time to time, though everyone knows who popularized it first.
“No, no, no!”
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) April 9, 2022
Allen Iverson literally stepped over former Laker, current Clipper Ty Lue after hitting a dagger jumper in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, one of the most humilating celebrations in NBA history. That’s probably an immediate technical foul in today’s NBA, so we’re glad it happened in the era it did.
— SLAM Rewind (@SLAMRewind) June 6, 2019
A historically important celebration in NBA history, Reggie Miller once put his hands around his neck while staring at Knicks super fan Spike Lee after stealing a road playoff win over New York to let Lee and other Knicks fans know that their beloved team had quite literally just choked.
Few players today are capable of getting hot like Trae Young, especially from beyond the arc. So it’s ironic that when Young goes off on one of his tears, he celebrates by acting like he’s cold in the middle of running back down the court to let foes know who the coldest player on the court is.
TRAE YOUNG IS TOO COLD ❄️ pic.twitter.com/bT05HS3waA
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 27, 2019
An iconic celebration on this list, Damian Lillard would point at his wrist to signify it was ‘Dame Time’ after hitting game-winners or game-sealing shots, one of the coldest ways to celebrate such moments in NBA history.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 23, 2019
Russell Westbrook is best known for his tenacity and strength in getting to the rim, often overpowering even bigger players during his forays to the rim. To commemorate such occasions, Westbrook would celebrate by rocking the baby to really let opponents know what he thought of them.
— Boomtown Hoops (@BoomtownHoops) October 31, 2018
If there’s one thing D’Angelo Russell has never lacked, it’s confidence, as embodied by his popular ‘Ice in my Veins’ celebration, in which he’d point to his vein after hitting a big shot to let opponents know how cold-blooded he is, i.e., never nervous or scared to take a big shot.
LeBron James and D'Angelo Russell "ice in my veins" handshake 🥶pic.twitter.com/3QDvQKW8gK
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) March 15, 2023
Various players do the ‘Too Small’ celebration but few do it as emphatically as Kevin Durant would, memorably once turning to Evan Fournier after scoring on him to let him know he was too tiny to defend him. Brutal (for Fournier).
Kevin Durant really told Evan Fournier he was "too tiny" after draining this shot on him on this day one year ago 😅🤏
KD ended up dropping 53 points on the Knicks in a Nets win.pic.twitter.com/QVKNrcqneh
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) March 13, 2023
One of the best scorers in league history, James Harden had a celebration fit for a future Hall-of-Famer of his caliber, pretending to cook and stir the pot after going off on one of his patented scoring tears in his prime. Chef Harden could cook many a foe in his heyday.
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) March 30, 2015
Vince Carter’s ‘It’s Over’ celebration after sealing the 2000 Dunk Contest still gets used from time to time to this day. An unforgettable dunk contest performance and celebration from Carter.
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) February 19, 2023
If there’s one NBA legend who played with their heart on their sleeve, it was the always-boisterous Kevin Garnett, a trash-talking master but also one of the best power forwards ever. Garnett liked to move his jersey to one side while celebrating and show fans what he had more of than any other player: heart.
Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade made this celebration popular after hitting game-winning shots, running straight to the scorer’s board and jumping onto it to celebrate with the fans while letting them know whose house the then-American Airlines Arena belonged to.
"THIS IS MY HOUSE"
12 years ago today, Dwyane Wade hit the game winner and let Miami know 🗣 pic.twitter.com/PCpB4G6La6
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 9, 2021
There’s no question dunks used to have more flair as these days, if you mess up a dunk and cost your team two points, you’ll be a meme for the rest of the season, leading many players to take the simple dunk over an in-game celebration. Karl Malone didn’t have to worry about internet trolling, though, so he used to put one hand behind his head while dunking as his celebration, something we’d like to see make a comeback.
Without Draymond Green’s muscle, the current Golden State Warriors probably don’t win their four championships. Green makes sure to let opponents know that, too, with his signature celebration, the simple but effective flex after an and-1.
Draymond Green and-1 and the flex 💪🏽pic.twitter.com/XpLYEz5pkc
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) May 19, 2022
Often the butt of jokes in the NBA but sometimes in on it, too, Nick Young had a pretty cool celebration in which he’d put a circle over his eye with three fingers pointing up to signify how many points he just scored after making one from beyond the arc.
Nick Young stay celebrating too early . . . smh 🔫 🔫 🔫 pic.twitter.com/wqGLEBQn0h
— Shmearnie (@ParlaysTV) March 30, 2016
A fantastic form of branding here, as Jason Terry, also known by his nickname ‘The Jet,’ would pretend he was an actual jet after hitting big three-pointers and glide back down the court when opponents would take timeouts. Trolling at its best.
Throwback to the Jason Terry dagger over LeBron in the 2011 Finals.
Classic Jet ✈️ pic.twitter.com/fowY7MHSoX
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 2, 2020
A surefire way to get fined in today’s NBA, Sam Cassell originally made this celebration popular during his heyday in the Association, letting foes know how much… we’ll say courage he had when hitting big-time shots.
However, Cassell wasn’t the only player to unleash this celebration, as Eddie House also did it from time to time. (He got fined for it.)
It’s actually surprising another player hasn’t picked up this celebration, as it’s a simple and effective way to let your opponent know you just hit a huge three in their face via an imaginary phone call. Underrated celebration by Caron Butler, we hope someone revives it.
Someone needs to bring back the “Calling Long distance” celebration from Caron Butler 🔥📞 pic.twitter.com/bU48umVOQZ
— BASKETBALL ON 𝕏 (@BasketballOnX) August 16, 2023
Looking up at the heavens on one knee as his form of celebrating hitting a huge three-pointer, JR Smith’s signature celebration is a fun one, one that was even honored by another three-point sniper, Curry, at a charity golf event.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 13, 2023