It’s safe to say that James Harden is one of the most, if not the most, polarizing players in NBA history. His game has gotten a lot of mixed opinions but, if there was one thing that we could all agree on, it’s that he is one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history.
Over the last several years, Harden has quickly established himself as one of the greatest scorers of all time. He can shoot from anywhere on the court and is one of the best iso-players in the NBA. Due to his ability to bait fouls, he may be the most “unguardable” player in NBA History.
If there was one blemish on Harden’s career, it would be that he has yet to win a championship. Harden has come close for the past few seasons and if not for the Golden State Warriors being as dominant as they have been, he would have a championship by now. Adding a ring and finals MVP to his resume would bolster his status amongst the greats and in this argument, we will talk about how adding a Ring and a Finals MVP to his resume can propel him over his former teammate, Kevin Durant, in all-time rankings.
To touch on Kevin Durant, we have never seen a player like him. KD is a near 7-foot wing who has the handles of a guard and can score from anywhere on the court. He is a multi-time champion, an MVP, and will go down as one of the greatest scorers ever. Despite all this, KD will never get the respect that he may deserve due to his decision to join the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016.
Joining an already dominant team has completely ruined how people view him and because of this, his rings hold “no value”, as said by many people. This is one of the reasons as to why Harden would be ranked higher than KD if he were to win a championship. Though KD was amazing in the 2017 and 2018 finals, he was on what many say is the greatest team of all-time. Durant joined a team that had three all-stars and the Warriors, more than likely, would have won multiple rings without him.
Now, looking at Harden’s case, imagine if he were to win a ring right now? This year, there is no “clear favorite” for the championship and there are a handful of teams that will contend for the championship this year. Looking at who the Rockets would have to beat, if everyone’s record stays the same, they would have to face, potentially, the Lakers and Clippers in the western conference and then the Bucks in the finals, if they were to make it.
This means that to win a championship, the Rockets will have to beat a top-2 player of all time in LeBron James and his star co-teammate in Anthony Davis, Last year’s Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and another star in Paul George, and an MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Looking back in NBA history, a finals run that can compare to the difficulty of the one that the Rockets could face would be, the 1995 Houston Rockets. In 1995, the Rockets won the Finals as a 6th seed and beat the Karl Malone and John Stockton-led Utah Jazz, the 59-win, Charles Barkley-led Phoenix Suns, the 62-win San Antonio Spurs led by the MVP in David Robinson, and the Shaq-led Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals.
If they were to a championship, this Rockets team would be the lowest seed to do so, if the standings stay the same.
Now, would this alone be enough to surpass Kevin Durant all-time? Probably not, but it is adding a championship ON TOP OF the other things that Harden has done that make the argument interesting. He is an MVP, a multi-time scoring champion and has averaged 36.1 and 34.9 points per game in the last seasons, respectively. KD and Harden are close in total points scored also. Harden has not shown any signs of slowing down and, due to KD's injury and age, we could see Harden outlast him in the NBA and pass him in scoring.
A championship with the Rockets would change the stigma on him and in my opinion, would propel him over Kevin Durant in all-time rankings.