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James Harden’s top five moments of 2018

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It was an outstanding year for The Beard.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With 2019 looming, let’s take the time to remember some of the awesome things NBA MVP James Harden did in 2018.

#5. Historic 10-Game Stretch

This was hard to put at only No.5. In the grand scheme of things, this will probably mean more, as far as influencing a season, than anything else on this list.

If you thought Harden was the MVP before, this is one of those rare times in a player’s career where they’re asked to put a team on their back, and they just say, “OK.” And I don’t mean “oh, our second-best player has been in a slump these couples of games, and his 30 points per game has really helped.” No, this is “we’re absolutely going to lose without you.”

It’s also not just two or three or five games. It’s 10 games of just being the best player in the NBA. It shows no signs of coming to an end, either. Harden has averaged 39.4 points a game over the past 10 games, 9 of them coming in wins. He’s willed the Rockets to a 20-15 record and 3.5 games back of the first seed; just a month ago they had the second-worst record in the West.

Like I said, this probably has the most impact when it comes to actual basketball, but this is his best moments, not most important, so it’ll have to settle at No.5.

#4. Rockets Single-Game Scoring Record/60-Point Triple-Double

If when you read this, you thought that this was two different moments, then you’re right.

In one night, James Harden broke two incredible records, and they each should be acknowledge as such.

On Jan. 30 against the Orlando Magic, James Harden scored 60 points and surpassed the Rockets’ single-game scoring record of 57 points held by Calvin Murphy since March 18, 1978.

Let that sink in: Not Hakeem, not Moses, not T-Mac, Not Yao, but Harden. And that says way more about how hard it is to score 50+ points, and how impressive it was that Murphy did it so long ago. It definitely was a special moment.

Now, that incredible night didn’t end there, as foretold. Harden added 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the first-ever 60-point triple-double. Unfortunately, this is honestly such an amazing feat, that it eclipses the fact that he passed Murphy, but always remember that they’re one in the same.

Check out the highlights from that game:

#3. POSTERS POSTERS POSTERS

At first, I wanted to do just the Draymond Green dunk in the playoffs, because it’s easily the best dunk and the most satisfying. But Harden has being dunkin’-dunkin’ the later of part of this year, and it’s a disservice to not include how awesome it’s been to see The Beard put some guys on posters.

Up first, the aforementioned Draymond dunk.

Let’s walk through this dunk really quickly.

To begin, Harden is already fouled as he’s going through the lane, so he’s moving through the contact. Next, he goes absolutely vertical, not around, and not through, but body-to-body, chest-to-chest and throws down the hammer. SHEEESH. Then, there’s some extra curricular activity from Draymond at the end that should have not only been a technical, but that made it and-one, as well. That’s like three and-ones in one play. ON TOP OF ALL THIS, he dunks on the biggest heel in the NBA and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in his own home.

OH HOW SWEET IT IS.

Also, he does this again two days later for good measure:

At No.2 of this improvised poster countdown. The JaVale McGee mash:

The blow-by. The dunk. JaVale falling to the floor. THE FLEX. Everything about this was spectacular.

And, finally:

ALL HE DOES IS DUNK ON REIGNING DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEARS. He probably gets up the highest here out of all the dunks, and he finished it with his right hand. Insane.

#2. Wesley Johnson

I didn’t need a real title or introduction for this moment. Odds are that you knew what it was already.

On Feb. 28, 2018, James Harden did THIS to Wesley Johnson.

Not only was this the greatest single play that Harden did on the court this year, but it was easily one of the great highlights in NBA history. HIS-TOR-Y. Quote me on that.

Everything that you could want in a crossover, happened in this one:

1. Johnson buckles. 2. Johnson thinks he can recover and falls flat on the floor. 3. Harden is about 10 feet from his defender that he shook (that’s devastating). 4. He stares him down- and I mean way, way, way down. 5. He licks his lips. Like a predator watching his prey, he licks his damn lips. 6. He makes the shot. BANG BANG BANG.

Did I even mention that this was in Los Angeles, and he had the crowd going crazy? That’s how you know it’s too good. Not to mention, so many memes came out of this.

My favorite part might have been afterward when Harden was asked about the play, and he does his best to hold it together and not react.

This was not only his best moment on the court that season, but it might have defined his MVP campaign. In a season where no one could stop him, Harden sat a player down on his backside, and looked at him like he was all his- just like he did every defender that year. It was also the play that solidified the deadliness of his go-to move: the step-back jumper.

#1. Your NBA MVP

NBA: Award Show Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

To say that it was a long time coming is probably inaccurate. Harden has deserved it before, and you can argue that this should be his third MVP award, but all of that doesn’t matter now.

What matters is that Houston Rockets’ James Harden was the league’s Most Valuable Player of the 2017-2018 season.

In 72 games, Harden led the league in scoring at 30.4 points per game, and he averaged 8.8 assists (third in the NBA), and 5.4 rebounds to go along with it. He led the Rockets to a franchise-best 65 wins and the best record in the NBA. It was also the second season that he was awarded the NBPA’s MVP Award.

Well-deserved.