Houston Rockets: Analyzing the polarizing legacy of James Harden

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NBA Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

A rule-bending offensive savant

One of the more noteworthy aspects of Harden’s legacy will be how he changed the game of basketball and how he almost bends the rules in his favor. In the last couple of seasons especially, James has evolved into arguably the most lethal one-on-one and isolation scorer in NBA history.

The man has always had a knack for drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line as he leads the league in free-throw attempts almost every season. He’s a master at flailing his arms, drawing contact and contorting his body in ways that almost force the referee to make a call.

In recent years, Harden has expanded his foul-drawing prowess all the way out to the 3-point line where, again, he draws more whistles than anyone else. James’ shooting mechanics from deep brings his centre of gravity forward on his way down which means any defender close enough to obstruct his landing is going to be in danger of picking up a foul. This reality is made all the more inevitable when he sticks out a leg to bait the defender into contact or if all else fails, a little flop can be just the thing to do the trick.

And I haven’t even talked about his step-back 3 yet.

In case you were not aware, the step-back three has become James Harden’s signature shot. It’s one of the hardest shots to guard and Harden’s particular step-back has ignited a debate in NBA circles concerning whether or not it is actually a legal NBA move or in fact a travel.

This is where the questions about James’ so-called “rule-bending/exploiting” come in. Some commend Harden for the genius he shows in pushing the rules to their limit and almost moulding the game in his favour while others condemn him, saying his style of play takes away from the game, isn’t enjoyable to watch and in some cases, he’s even been accused of cheating the game.

Personally, I commend the Beard for his approach to the game. While other guys are staying in the gym, James has his head in the rulebook, trying to figure out a new way to make the game easier for him; a new way to dominate.

And whatever side you come down on, you can’t say there isn’t a method to Harden’s madness. I mean, we’ve seen the man improve significantly in some way almost every year since he arrived in Houston and a lot of that has to do with the way he manipulates the game in his favour.

This year, he appears to have added a one-legged 3-pointer to his arsenal which means – if it’s falling for him – we could see an even more dangerous Harden than the one who averages over 36 points a season ago!

Say what you will about his polarising style of play but at the end of the day, James Harden will go down as one of the most unique superstars in NBA history and his impact on the game of basketball will be felt long after he hangs ‘em up!

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