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James Harden's Coach Used To Bribe Harden With Food If He Could Get To The Free Throw Line At Least 6 Times Per Game

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James Harden is one of the craftiest guards of our generation. One of the best combo guards in the league, Harden has shown tremendous acumen over his career from both the scoring and the assisting front. He is one of the few players to have led the league in both assists and scoring in different seasons.

However, Harden is best known (or infamous) for his ability to get to the free-throw line. The former MVP has led the league in free throws attempted seven times, including six consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2020. This is frustrating to watch but has allowed Harden to register historic scoring numbers like when he averaged 36 points in 2018-19 and followed it up with 34.3 points in 2019-20.

However, what motivated Harden to get to the line? According to his former high school coach Scott Pera, it was fast food. Coach Pera would reward Harden with fast food of his choice when he attempted more than six free throws a game. 

"It's funny, you just try different things with different kids. He was a very good standstill shooter, so any kid that is good at something, that could be naturally what they wanna do all the time, and I kept trying to change that mentality. You wanna be a great scorer or a really good player, you have to add different things to your game, so you need to learn to take contact. Every time you get knocked down, you gotta get back up, not looking anybody funny, not talk to the referee, get to the free-throw line and get your two points. And so that's where that came from, to challenge him a little bit and he took things to the next level. He got probably a lot of hamburgers that year."

The fact that Harden has found expert precision at getting to the free-throw line by being motivated by food will open him up to many jokes, but coaches do what they have to do to motivate their players. Coach Pera incentivized Harden with food and ended up creating a machine that is very proficient at getting to the line. 

Harden is 20th all-time in free throws attempted behind two active players in LeBron James and Dwight Howard. He has averaged 8.7 free throws a game for his career, with him going to the line 8.9 times per game this season.