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James Harden is the NBA’s 2018 Most Valuable Player

The Beard gets the hardware he has so long deserved.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Seven Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s happened: James Harden has officially been named the 2017-2018 Most Valuable Player.

It was the award everyone expected, but no Rockets fan is taking this one for granted. Not after deserving the award last year and being completely worthy of it in 2015. Harden has joined the ranks of the all-time greats. The fact remains until Derrick Rose retires: every single player who has won an MVP award has made the Hall of Fame. Harden’s case for Springfield has basically been etched in stone after this season.

And what a season it was. While integrating Chris Paul after a season in which Harden created more points than anyone in NBA history other than Tiny Archibald, Harden managed to somehow raise his own game while elevating his teammates in a way he never has before.

He scored a career-high 30.4 points per game, the most in the NBA. He averaged 8.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 three-pointers per game. He led the league in total three-pointers (for the first time) and free throws (again). Beyond counting stats, he led the NBA in win shares, box plus/minus and player efficiency rating.

Most importantly, he was the engine of the NBA’s best team, leading the Rockets to their first-ever 60-win season (they ended with 65) and first-ever No. 1 seed in the playoffs. And he looked good doing it.

LeBron James finished as runner-up, and after the playoffs, many wondered if he didn’t deserve the award over Harden. Codswallop, if you ask me. Harden had a higher usage rating than LeBron (36.1 to 31.6) and a lower turnover rate (15.1% to 16.1%), not to mention besting Cleveland’s Finest in all the afore-mentioned categories in which Harden led the league. Harden also led the NBA’s sixth-best defensive team in minutes. LeBron led the NBA’s second-worst defensive team.

But the beauty of this award is that, after tonight, none of that matters. James Harden is the MVP. He will be the reigning MVP for the next year. He got the Rockets farther than they’ve been in two decades this year, and he’s got a great chance to do even better in 2019. He is signed in Houston until 2023. Life is good.

Congratulations to the Beard. He’s got a well-earned reputation for enjoying his leisure activities, but his relentless work ethic has led him to improve every year. He is at the top of his profession. I can’t wait to see what he does for an encore.