James Harden may be the most polarizing player of our time. He’s a walking bucket and arguably the most unstoppable offensive force in the league, yet people tend to hate on him and criticize the way he plays.
Harden has made a living out of bending the rules and using them in his favor. He’s constantly going to the line, drawing contact, and getting away with some questionable movements that most people may argue are travels.
Still, the guy is averaging 39.5 points per game, and if it were so easy, we’d definitely see more players put on stat lines like his. So it’s natural to see some of his fans claim he’s the greatest natural scorer since Michael Jordan, as Tim Legler elaborated in Sportscenter:
“They’re saying he’s the greatest natural scorer since Michael Jordan. I agree with that. (…) Why is this guy so hard to defend? you have to stay somewhat forward because you know that what he wants to do typically is drive and then separate for a step-back three.
But what makes him so special is when he reads that you’re too far forward and your weigh is off, so he’s gonna turn the corner there. He doesn’t need a lot of space and he’s got an entire backline of the defense just staring at him and they can’t get there in time because he’s quick enough, strong enough to get there and finish”, Legler claimed.
Legler went on to break down a play where Russell Westbrook pushes the ball up the court and Harden nails a catch-and-shoot three-pointer, pointing the little details that make him such a versatile and gifted scorer, and even claiming he can control the game better than Kobe Bryant ever did:
“So, why do they say that he’s in that category as the best scorer since Jordan? it’s because of all the different ways he does it. Nobody can put the ball in the basket and control the game that way. Kobe may be in that class a little bit, But I think Harden is a little different” he elaborated.
Hot take or not, Legler has some numbers to back his point. Harden’s career average is 24.7 points compared to Kobe’s 25.0, but James’ scoring averages keep rising on a yearly basis, logging 3 straight seasons averaging 30+ points, something Kobe did 3 times throughout his career.
Kobe played for 19 seasons and won 2 scoring titles. Harden has two already and has only been in the league for half of that time, and he’s a lock to win his third one this year. You may like him or not, but Harden deserves a lot of praise for the way he’s torching defenders.