With the 2010s drawing to a close, “All-Decade” has been a popular topic in the NBA this summer, especially because it’s slow season and we have not much else to talk about. Heck, we even did our own All-Decade piece here at TDS. ESPN has done several, however, and James Harden is showing up on them.
First, The Beard was named to ESPN’s Best Shooters of the Decade list, coming in at number five, behind Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Klay Thompson. It’s a reasonable place for Harden, in my opinion, though LeBron is a bit too high for my liking, as the vast majority of his success, as ESPN does point out, comes at the rim. That makes him more of a “scorer” in my book, rather than a “shooter.”
You don’t want to leave King James sitting wide open, but people aren’t afraid of him as a pure shooter like they are the other guys. Scoring at the rim is technically a “shot,” yes, but it’s not what anyone really thinks of when they’re thinking of a “shooter.”
But that’s not even my main issue with the list. No, my biggest beef is with how Harden is presented:
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Harden is one of the most innovative scorers we’ve ever seen. While his shot chart reveals that he’s an average shooter from the field, Harden achieves superstar efficiency levels by sticking to a ketogenic shot diet and getting to the line.
Harden began the decade as a young buck coming off the bench in OKC, but he ended it quarterbacking the most unique offense in the game. Even though his efficiency numbers might not compete with those of the other guys on this list, his volume, creativity and innovation are second to none.
Don’t believe me? He’s already the all-time NBA leader in unassisted 3s, and he just turned 30.
What other superstar on this list is treated that way? Why must everything with Harden always start with some caveat? You can say, “Love him or hate him,” literally about anyone else on this list.
Plenty of people dislike Durant (hello, snake nickname), Curry is not as universally well-liked outside of the Bay Area as many would like to make you think. Plenty of people (this writer included) find him entitled and obnoxious. LeBron haters and LeBron stans literally go at it head-to-head all day every day on Twitter and have been for several years straight now. There’s no shortage of haters there, trust me.
But there’s always some little thing with Harden, some little dig that almost every national writer giving him props in some way must also throw in there to balance out the fact that he’s getting accolades. Que sera, it’s the life of a Rockets fan, seeing these digs. I just wish people would quit telling us we’re imaging things.
Anyway, The Beard also got mentioned as one of ESPN’s Top Players of the Decade. He didn’t get included in their write-up, naturally, because ESPN coincidentally decided to just write up the top three finishers, and wouldn’t ya know it, The Beard finished in fourth.
Not arguing the finish. It’s probably a fair one. But I think Harden (and Kawhi for that matter) both were impactful enough on the NBA and sports culture at large in this past decade to deserve a write up.
It’s cool The Beard is on there, but none of these recognitions will mean anything until Harden gets that ring. People will still hate even if the Beard wins a title, but at that point, we can all just tell them to kiss it (the ring, I mean).