Ohio State's Tony Skinn, on famous clip against James Harden: 'It's got never-ending life'
Tony Skinn counts his ability to relate to young players as one of his coaching strengths.
That ability might have something to do with his relative youth, having just turned 38 in February. Some of it surely has to do with his three children, the oldest of whom is 14 and not too far removed from the age of a typical college freshman.
Some of it, though, comes from the cachet that comes with being the guy who crossed over nine-time NBA all-star James Harden during an Olympic game on global television. The play, which came during the 2012 games as Skinn played for his birth country of Nigeria, remains a presence in his life years after his playing career has come to a close.
“It’s funny: it does (help),” Skinn told The Dispatch. “That thing doesn’t seem to go away. I don’t talk about it, but somehow it’s got never-ending life. It’s going on year 10, and it comes around every few weeks, man.”
The moment came during the second quarter of what would become a 156-73 win for the United States during the preliminary round of the Olympics. With the Americans ahead 78-51 with a little more than a minute to play, Skinn takes the ball deep in his own backcourt with the shot clock winding down as Harden switches onto him. After cutting across the midline, Skinn crosses back over for a step-back three-pointer as Harden awkwardly stumbles to his left, nearly doing the splits as he collapses onto the court.
Naturally, Skinn buried the three to provide the most memorable highlight from a game otherwise known for the most points scored by one team in Olympic history. The official YouTube account for the Olympics named it the best crossover of the 2012 games in a clip that’s been viewed more than 123,000 times.
“It’s one of those things where I’ll take the free pub,” Skinn said. “I’ve done a lot more in my basketball career than that move, but if this is the outro, I’ll take it.”
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The sweet of the clip that lives forever comes with the sour of what came next for Skinn, away from the cameras. Two days later, Skinn played only nine minutes in a loss to Argentina while suffering what would become a career-ending injury. As the Americans were on their way to gold, Skinn suffered a torn quadriceps that would mark the end of his playing career, taking him from a career highlight to a sudden stop within 48 hours.
He would rehab the injury but, in the process, wound up needing to undergo microfracture surgery on his knee.
“That’s what did it,” he said. “You can’t be 6-foot tall and not be able to run circles around guys, you know? I smelled the coffee. I still felt good, but you have to be in a different shape when you’re playing professionally.”
Now, he’s helping others achieve their hardwood dreams. After three seasons at Louisiana Tech and three more at Seton Hall, he arrives at Ohio State as head coach Chris Holtmann’s third assistant and brings with him memories from having played everywhere from the Final Four while at George Mason to a six-year overseas professional career.
And there’s that one clip.
“I made that move and that’s what everybody kind of remembers me by, and I’ll take it,” he said. “I know I’m getting old, but it’s one of those things where I still feel young.”