James Harden: How the Houston Rockets’ guard is dominating the NBA
The NBA has seen dominance before. Michael Jordan’s sole purpose in life was to pulverise anyone who dared try to defend him. Lebron James is a basketball genius with the body of Thor. Steph Curry might already be the greatest shooter of all time.
But none of them have done what James Harden is doing right now.
On Saturday the Houston Rockets shooting guard put up 42 points against Oklahoma City Thunder, stretching his run of consecutive games scoring more than 30 points to 29.
It’s the best run in nearly 60 years.
How is he doing it?
His unique set of skills are tailor-made for the modern NBA – and are an absolute nightmare for defenders.
He has an arsenal of subtle hesitations and feints to get you off balance, an explosive first step to blow past, then the silkiest of finishing touches at the rim. He tries this 20 times per game, on average – more than any other player in the league.
But here’s the real sickener for defenders: give Harden an inch too much space to protect against the drive and he slams on the brakes, then in one physics-defying movement, steps back and launches a three-pointer.
He’s deadly from here too – he has a chance to break the record for three-pointers made in a single 82-game season, currently held by Curry at 402. Harden has notched 260 in 52 games, an average of five per game.
This killer combination has led influential American basketball writer and podcaster Bill Simmons to say that Harden “one-on-one would beat just about anybody in history right now”.
Can he keep going and break the record?
The record for consecutive 30+ point games was set, like many of the NBA’s scoring records, by the legendary Wilt Chamberlain during the late 1950s and early 60s. He holds first and second place, and fourth, on the list.
- Wilt Chamberlain – 65 games (1961-62)
- Wilt Chamberlain – 31 games (1962)
- James Harden – 29 games (2018-19)
- Wilt Chamberlain – 25 games (1960)
Basketball, like most sports, has evolved since Chamberlain’s era. Harden’s run is unprecedented in the modern game. The next best in recent history is Kobe Bryant’s 16-game run in 2003. The most Michael Jordan managed was 11 in a row in 1987.
The run has been necessitated by injuries to the other scorers on the Rockets team, and Harden said on Monday night that this style of play can’t last forever.
“I have to be ball dominant because we have injuries,” said Harden. “We had injuries throughout the course of the year, but when we get Chris [Paul] in a rhythm and Eric [Gordon] back and get our full roster, we have got multiple guys that can make plays, multiple guys that can dominate the ball.”
The scoring streak has kept the Rockets in the play-off race and has made him the bookies’ favourite to win a second consecutive Most Valuable Player award.
He probably won’t break the record for consecutive 30-point games, but he might create a new one: total number of sleepless nights for the players who have to defend him.
Harden will aim to make it 30 30-point games at the Rockets’ next game against the Dallas Mavericks at 01:00 GMT Tuesday. – bbc.com