What is the most unstoppable move in world sport?
Signature moves are everything in sport.
It’s how individual legacies are defined and determines how each star stacks up with athletes from other eras and sports.
Certain athletes have those go-to moves which they always lean on, you know its coming, but they execute better than anybody else in the world and it contributes to their greatness.
This is a topic which has fascinated me for years and it makes for brilliant pub discussion – what truly is the most damaging and unstoppable move in world sport?
I’ve agonised over this for some time and have managed to whittle down my list to just five contenders.
For the sake of consistency and before I dive into my list, I did just want to make a few things clear.
This list only features athletes who are active as of 2019. So don’t come at me saying I’ve missed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook – arguably the most unstoppable move in NBA history – because I haven’t.
I’ve also only selected one athlete from each sport.
Using the previous example again, had I selected Kareem on the list that would then rule out all other basketballers etc.
With so many great signature moments across world sport this was very hard to cut down to just five moves so I wanted to give out a few honourable mentions:
Rafael Nadal’s forehand – The greatest exponent of top spin the tennis world has ever seen. Rafa’s unique ability to get around the court and fire off that signature whipped forehand with enough top spin to make your eyes roll into the back of your head – oh by the way, he’s unstoppable on clay.
Arjen Robben’s left foot strike – What makes this move so special for me is just how hard it is for defenders to stop. Robben gets his head down, runs at a defender on the right flank, cuts inside onto his left boot and shoots to the far corner. It’s telegraphed every single time and yet countless goalkeepers have found themselves picking the ball out of the back of the net as the Dutchman celebrates.
Russell Westbrook’s euro step – Westbrook has never been everyone’s cup of tea but there is no denying his out-of-this-world levels of athleticism. His ability to run full tilt at a well-drilled NBA defence, change pace and take two steps to get around someone is unparalleled. Love him or hate him – that move is ridiculous.
5) Mitchell Starc’s yorker
England allrounder Ben Stokes witnessed firsthand this week just how much of a weapon the in-swinging yorker is for Australia’s Mitchell Starc.
There is not much a batsman can do when Starc is throwing thunderbolts down at 150km/h and the ball is hooping around all over the place.
One of my personal favourite Starc yorkers came from the 5th ball of the first over in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup Final against New Zealand at the MCG.
New Zealand superstar Brendan McCullum left the arena without troubling the scorers after he fell victim to an unplayable ball delivered right at the base of the stumps.
When Starc is on song, even the best batsman in the world can’t keep him out.
4) Dustin Martin’s don’t argue
This falls into a similar category as Arjen Robben’s cut inside because we’ve all seen it, we’ve all heard theories of how to stop it and yet week in, week out, Dusty does it again and again.
As a diehard Crows fan, and 2017 AFL Grand Final attendee, it killed me to see Dusty lift up the Premiership cup on the last Saturday in September with a Norm Smith Medal around his neck.
But you can’t argue that the ‘Dusty fend-off’ is the most feared move in the AFL.
Resistance is futile and it is one of the great modern highlights to see Dustin Martin in full flight.
3) Alex Ovechkin’s top of the circle one timer
If you aren’t a big ice hockey fan then you might think I’m completely crazy for putting this so high.
With that being said, if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin slam home a puck from the top of the faceoff circle then do yourself a favour and get on YouTube right now.
Ovechkin’s one timer is so lethal that the Caps have built their power play unit entirely around ‘The Great Eight’ and his slapper.
On the man advantage, Washington flick the puck from side to side just waiting to generate enough space to let Ovechkin unleash.
He’s almost definitely going to end his career with the most power play goals in NHL history and will go close to topping Wayne Gretzky’s seemingly unbeatable goals record.
2) James Harden’s step back jumper
It’s almost unimaginable to think back to the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder team and see that James Harden was the third best player on the team, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Harden’s star has risen dramatically since his trade to the Houston Rockets with the team committing itself to running its entire offence through him.
They added Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, even the corpse of Carmelo Anthony and its no denying that Harden has been the alpha dog.
His ability to get to draw fouls and get to the free throw line is so unique that that alone could have been an entry onto this list, but its the step back that really sets him a part.
You can see it coming when he’s sizing up a defender, gets them on skates only to rip the ball from under them and step back, usually behind the three point line, and let it fly.
It’s the most unstoppable move in the NBA right now and one of the hardest to defend in world sport
1) Lionel Messi’s free kicks
This was not an easy decision but what really did it for me was the fear it causes opposition teams which made me give the Argentinian megastar the top spot.
Nothing scares opposition players, coaches and fans across the world, than seeing the 5’7 footballing legend standing over a dead ball.
He’s shown the world time and time again you don’t need to be a physical powerhouse to be a brilliant footballer.
The skill required to score some of the many free kicks Messi has scored over the years is somewhat unfathomable.
Martin Tyler put it perfectly when Messi banged home yet another long-range free kick against Liverpool in this past season’s UEFA Champions League semi final.
“Just when you think he’s done everything, he comes up with something even more special. He’s a God of the game… the God of the game.”