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We may have just witnessed peak James Harden

The Rockets lost in the end, but James Harden was a sight to behold.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When I began writing article, I was contemplating if I should title it something a long the lines of “Despite the loss, we got to witness peak Harden”- something to that effect. While it is about James Harden’s monster night, I should at least acknowledge in the headline that it did come in a loss. Then I thought longer about it, and I told myself, “forget all that noise.”

Yes, it is true that the Rockets lost a tough one to the struggling Wizards. But it is also true that Harden went completely insane in this game. It would have been nice to see a win, but if you’re not going to read about my affinity for an incredibly entertaining performance from The Bead just because of a loss, then this article isn’t for you.

Loss or not, I think we just saw PEAK HARDEN.

The Headband

NBA: Houston Rockets at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to be honest: the headband is the precursor to this entire article. It is what created this. It’s the mere fact that he was an unstoppable force in this garment. If you don’t get the deal with headband, then you’re a lost hope. For the rest of us, the headband is a big deal.

It’s panache. It’s character. It’s flavor. It’s the difference between, “Oh, James Harden had another 50-and-10 game,” and, “James Harden just dropped 50 and 10- in a headband!

He doesn’t wear sleeves. He doesn’t have any visible tattoos. He doesn’t wear the compression pants. So when he wore that headband, it was like seeing another version of him.

There’s just something about it. When LeBron James put it on for the first time in years this season, you felt like he was about to go Super Saiyan. Jackie Moon invented the alley-oop in a headband. You can honestly name what game you saw a player who doesn’t typically wear one, wear one. You just know that when a player puts a headband on, there’s an immediate pressure to not only have a huge game, but you have to be entertaining as well.

He did just that.

The Nosebleed Celebration

You know what else makes for peak Harden? The nosebleed celebration.

This is on the verge of becoming theatre. Yes, theatre with an “re” at the end.

It’s no longer about even being campy or funny (even though it is hilarious). Harden dunks the ball and then nearly crumbles down to his knees. He has to pick himself up from the floor. Then, he checks it and calls over the trainer. The commentators have to convince themselves that he’s just being silly. It’s getting to that level now.

The only way that it could have been more realistic is if he starts including props; he’s just carrying fake blood capsules with him now. If he forces the referees to take a timeout due to blood on the court. Harden walks his way up to the trainer and forces him to examine him even if the other team doesn’t call timeout. He walks his way back to the tunnel. It’s just that good.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this was probably the best that we will ever see of this particular celebration.

The Performance

Going beyond the cool look and the antics, Harden really did have himself one of those all-time great games.

James Harden dropped his 10th 50-plus-point career game— 54 points on 17-of-32 shooting to go along with 13 assists and 8 rebounds. Without his best teammate on the court, Harden stepped up a played 47 minutes through regulation and overtime after having played 43 minutes just the game before- a game where he dropped 40 points and 13 assists.

Here are some more stats for you: It’s his fifth career game in which he had 50 points and 10 assists. No other player has done that. Ever.

Russell Westbrook has four, Tiny Achibald has three. Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and LeBron James each have two. Rare company indeed.

He’s also the only player doing this this season:

Now we can get to the bad part: it did end in a 135-131 loss in D.C.

By the end of the game, it was obvious that Harden was spent. All that usage caught up to him, and he couldn’t continue taking over the game. This led to him making some poor decisions in overtime and creating costly turnovers. And, yes, he did have 11 total turnovers for the game, but this comes with the cost of leaning on one man to create over 50-percent of your offense. You could say that he lost the game for them, or that they wouldn’t even have been there without him in the first place.

I pick the latter.

He had a historic game. He had the all-time great celebration. And he did it all in a headband. It might have come in a loss, but it was fun and amazing to watch. That’s why I say that it might have just been peak Harden.