It’s no secret that the 2018-2019 season hasn’t started off how anyone would have liked for the Houston Rockets, but that hasn’t stopped James Harden from being recognized for his greatness. The Beard was just named to ESPN’s list of the most dominant athletes of 2018, coming in at number 19.
ESPN focused primarily on how Harden finished up the 2017-2018 season, in which he led the Rockets to a franchise-best 65-17 record, snagged his first-ever MVP award and helped push Houston to a near-upset of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Here’s what ESPN had to say:
DOMINANCE RATING: 0.639
“Here was the Rockets’ game plan in 2017-18: Give the ball to Harden and get out of his way. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Harden became the fourth player to average at least 30.0 points -- he led the league at 30.4 -- on a team with at least 65 wins. The others? Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan (twice) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To do so, Harden topped the NBA in average free throws made (8.7) and attempted (10.1), shot 37 percent on 10 three-pointers per game and dished 8.8 assists (third in the league) on one of the most efficient offenses in NBA history. And he still found time to groom that beard.”
Harden was just one of three basketball players to make the list, with LeBron James coming in at number 13 and WNBA star Breanna Stewart coming in at number 7.
Harden’s Rockets haven’t been nearly as good in the second half of 2018, though it’s important to note that The Beard’s numbers are nearly identical to his MVP year right now. He’s currently averaging 30 points, 5.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 2.1 steals per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent on 11 three-pointers per game.
Harden’s been equally as dominant from an individual perspective, but Houston just hasn’t found any consistency as a team and lack in quality depth, as they’ve struggled to an 11-14 record. If that continues, don’t expect to see The Beard back on the list next year, but there’s no doubting that he belongs on the 2018 list for how good he has been.
Cool stuff for Harden, and you can find the full list, which is topped by U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, right here.