James Harden has earned a reputation of being a free-throw chaser, a flopper, and more, just to get to the free-throw line. The Beard is one of the best scorers the NBA has seen but he's also one of those dudes who takes a lot of free throws every single game. This has gotten another dimension over the last couple of seasons, but Harden was used to these practices since he was a teenager.
The 2018 NBA MVP was encouraged by his high school teacher, Scott Pera, to go at least six times to the free-throw line. The prize? Fast food. Harden did his job and the coach bought him burgers or whatever he wanted. The reason behind all of this? Well, Pera says he wanted to expand Harden's game, making him more than just a standstill shooter. Talking with Sports Illustrated in 2017, Pera said:
"It's funny. You just try different things with different kids. He [Harden] 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."
Well, Harden did learn how to take contact and sometimes even how to fake it. This year, he attempted 11.4 free throws per game, leading the entire NBA in that item. The Rockets should thank Pera for teaching Harden how to take contact while the rest of the league must be wishing he never learned that.