Forget what Max Kellerman said on First Take a week ago, James Harden is currently playing better basketball than anyone on the planet.
Thursday night, Harden silenced his naysayers, as he led the Houston Rockets to a scintillating 135-134 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors. After he knocked down the game-winning basket with a contested three-pointer, Harden ended the game with 44 points, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds in the win. The performance marked his fifth consecutive 40-point game and second triple-double in a row.
Since his 50-point masterpiece in a 126-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on December 13, there’s been no words to describe the historic run Harden is currently on. Just take a look at his previous point total in each of his last 11 games: 50, 32, 47, 35, 35, 39, 41, 45, 41, 43, and 44.
If that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, Harden became just the third player over the past 30 years to score over 400 points in an 11-game span. The other players who have achieved this feat are Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
James Harden had words for Draymond right after the game-winner pic.twitter.com/iKG0noKK5N— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 4, 2019
While averaging 40.8 points, 8.9 assists, and 6.8 rebounds, this is by far the best stretch Harden has played throughout his career. However, as he looks to continue his historic run throughout the course of the season, it’s important to note that Harden’s been doing these types of things his whole career. He’s just never gotten the mainstream recognition for it that he’s deserved.
Don’t believe us?
The Heir Apparent to Kobe, 2014-2015:
First on the list, the 2014-15 season. Not only was this James Harden’s first season as a genuine MVP candidate, but this was the year where Harden became the heir apparent to Kobe Bryant as the best shooting guard in the league.
He averaged 27.4 points, 7.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds while leading the Rockets to the third-best record in the league at 56-26, and their first appearance in the Conference Finals since 1997.
While recording a career-high in win shares at 16.4, what made this season great was the load Harden had to carry in the absence of Dwight Howard. Houston’s All-Star center missed half of the season due to injuries, and Harden kept the Rockets afloat with a few all-time great performances in December.
While averaging 30.6 points and taking home Player of the Month honors, there was a stretch of games where Harden averaged 32.2 points and had three 40 plus games from December 10-20.
Later that season, Harden recorded his first 50-point performance in a 118-108 win over the Denver Nuggets, only to surpass his then-career-high with a 51-point game against the Sacramento Kings two weeks later.
He scored over 40 points 12 times that season
Unleashing the beast, 2016-2017:
Next up is the 2016-17 season. This was the year where James Harden put up one of the greatest individual performances the league has ever seen.
In his first season under Mike D’Antoni, the former Coach of the Year helped unleash a new beast, as Harden truly came into his own as a superstar player. The Beard’s euro-step and ability to draw fouls reached an all-time high, while establishing himself as one of the best playmakers in the league.
While winning his first and only assist title, Harden averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 dimes, and 8.1 rebounds on 44.0 percent shooting from the field. What makes this season even more special was another series of unreal performances.
On New Year’s Eve against the New York Knicks, Harden recorded his first career 50-point triple-double in a win, and continued his phenomenal performance a week later with back-to-back 40-point games against the Raptors and Hornets.
Thanks to seven triple-doubles in a 14-game span, Harden averaged 30.9 points, 10.7 assists, and 9.2 rebounds while helping the Rockets go 10-4 during that stretch. They would eventually finish 55-27 on the year, losing in the second round of the playoffs to San Antonio.
Although the season ultimately ended in disappointment, there is something special about a player who became the first in NBA history to have at least 50 points, 15 assists, and 15 rebounds in a single game.
MVP season, 2017-2018:
Lastly, is the 2017-18 season. After falling short of the honor in two of the last three seasons, this was the year where James Harden finally won an MVP award. He led the Rockets to their best record in franchise history with 65 wins and came one game short of reaching the NBA Finals.
While grabbing his first scoring title, it was another spine-tingling year for Harden, as he averaged 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds across 72 games. He had back-to-back 50-point performances against the Lakers and the Clippers, and there is one game in particular that stands out as what could be considered the best version of The Beard.
Tuesday, January 30th in Houston, Harden notched the first 60-point triple-double in a 114–107 win over the Orlando Magic. His stat line on the night: 60 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, while going 19-of-30 from the field, and an absurd 17-of-18 from the free-throw line.
It was what we all thought was peak James Harden.
Now nearly a year after his 60-point triple-double, Harden’s performance in the Bay last night officially began his application as a NBA All-Time Great. There’s plenty more to do to fill out that resume (like winning a title) but Harden has an entire half of a career left to finalize his bullet points.
Before it’s all said an done, something tells me Harden’s historic performances will become just as iconic as and appear on lists alongside Kobe’s 81-point game, and Jordan’s 63-point playoff performance in 1986.
None of that will be news to us Rockets fans, however. We’ve been watching The Beard go supernova for years now.