We can say that the NBA is the best league in the world in terms of basketball. If there is something good that the NBA has, is that many great players have passed throught it, such us Michael Jordan and LeBron James. This also has its negative points, since having had such good players, there is a huge need to win a ring to be remembered as one of the best in history. This is the case of James Harden.
James Harden entered in the NBA in the 2009 draft and was selected 3rd overall pick by the Thunder. From the first moment, the Californian shooting guard already showed himself as what he was, a player with a great scoring ability but with a rather passive defense.
Despite this, he failed to establish himself as a starter alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but he did establish himself as a player coming off the bench. This led him to win the 6th man of the year award for the year in 2012.
After this, that same summer of 2012, Harden would decide to leave his team to become the franchise player of the Houston Rockets. In the Texan team, The Beard would get to bring out his best version and consolidate himself as one of the superstars of the league.
He reached such a level, that there he was the top scorer of the season for 3 consecutive campaigns (from 2017 to 2020). In Houston he consolidated himself as one of the greatest offensive talents in league history, breaking records and signing outrageous numbers: the only player in history to score 30 points to each team in a single season or score for 32 consecutive games more than 30 points (averaging in this streak 41.1 points per game) among others.
Harden achieved excellence in these Rockets, which has led him to get the MVP in 2018 and fall just short the following year, leaving a historical scoring mark of 36.1 points per game (the highest since Jordan’s 37.1).
In addition, Harden has established himself as one of the best shooters of all time from the 3-point line, thus becoming the third-leading three-point shooter in league history, only behind Curry and Ray Allen (whom he will eventually surpass to move into second place).
The Beard’s superiority on offense has been such that it has influenced the entire NBA and players who have appeared later in the league. This can be reflected in his most lethal move, the step-back, which was indefensible even for great defensive players. Players like Luka Doncic have come to the NBA and they use this move a lot.
But all this is not enough, because as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, here if you don’t win you are nobody. If you don’t get the ring, you will be a great player as many have been throughout history. And this is something for which Harden has been criticized a lot throughout his career: the decline of his performance in the playoffs, despite having great games of more than 40 points.
Despite having marked an era as a player, Harden’s professionalism has always been highly criticized by fans and press. This is due to the fact that since his last games in Houston, he didn’t take care of himself physically to force the transfer and it was easier to see him in strip clubs than on the court.
Faced with this, the Rockets decided to trade him to the Nets. There, a historic “big three” in terms of offensive talent was formed: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Faced with this accumulation of stars, Harden decided to take a step back and play a role not so much as a scorer, but as the team’s creator and assistant point guard. The need to win has turned the best scorer in the NBA into one of the best assistant point guards in the league.
Although the project in Brooklyn didn’t work out due to injuries and tensions within the locker room, Harden didn’t give up and after a year in New York he went to the 76ers, to form with Embiid, one of the most complete couples in the league.
In Philadelphia, Harden continues with his role as assistant, since the role of scorer falls on Joel Embiid, who is the franchise player of the team. Although it is true that talent is something that is never lost, and therefore, if the team needs buckets, The Beard will be there to score.
The level of complementarity between Embiid and Harden is very high. This was reflected at the end of this season, when the center received the title of top scorer of the season and Harden, the title of top assist of the season.
Undoubtedly, this season will be decisive for the shooting guard, since he will be 34 years old this summer and who knows if it could be his last season with real options to win his coveted ring.
What we do know about James is that he is a very intelligent player who has always been able to adapt to what his team needs (although in the past he has sinned several times of certain selfishness). Therefore, he will try with all his strength to get the ring and thus put the icing on the cake to a great career, shutting all the mouths that have always criticized him.
Main image: @sixers.