James Harden is one of the NBA’s best when it comes to getting to the line. He attempts the most in the league and is coming off a game in which he made a whopping 24 total free throws.
Though his antics are controversial, they’re very effective. He is on track to win his third straight scoring title, averaging almost 40 points per game this season alone.
Interestingly enough, his knack for getting to the line was developed all the way back in High School with help from his coach, Scott Pera. And, according to an article published years ago by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, he used a particularly unique method to do it.
To turn Harden from a sniper into a driver, Pera put him through daily X-out drills, in which Harden had to convert eight straight layups while Pera punished him with an arm pad. They made a standing bet: If Harden shot more than six free throws in a game, Pera owed him a hamburger; if Harden shot fewer than six, he owed Pera sprints. Harden discovered ways to contort his limbs through and around defenders, collecting whistles and patties.
Years after that initial quote, the hamburger strategy was brought up again in a more recent interview with Perra, and he did not disappoint with his response.
“I think he can buy the hamburgers now,” Pera told Gray. “It’s funny, you just try different things with different kids. I wanted him to understand the importance – he came to me as a very good standstill shooter. So any kid that is good at something, that’s what they naturally want to do all the time. And I kept trying to talk to him and tell him that if you want to 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. And I told him, every time you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up, not look at anybody funny, not talk to the refs or the other team, get to the free throw line and give them two points. So that’s where that bet came from, to challenge him a little bit, and he takes things to the next level.
“I think I probably bought a lot of hamburgers.”
Indeed, Harden’s methods seem odd and unnecessary to most. But considering what he is currently doing in Houston this season, it’s fair to say his efforts have paid off.
Perhaps we could all use a little burger inspiration in our lives...