May 2, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) hit a last second to win game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center.Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden possesses an aptitude for offensive gameplay. With his incredible ability to attack the lane, draw fouls, and shoot consistently from the outside, it’s no wonder why the Houston star is a top ten player – and possibly the best shooting guard – in the NBA today.
However, would anyone claim him as the best overall baller in the world? Ask everyone you know, and the answer will be “no”.
But if you ask Harden himself, the response will oppose popular belief. From Scoop Jackson of ESPN:
Scoop: Bottom line, you are on this team and a lot of players aren’t, but in your mind, who is the best basketball player alive right now?
Scoop: That’s what I was about to say, “including you.” You made that sound like it was an easy answer.
Harden: It is. Myself.
Harden clearly hasn’t heard of the on-court freight train known as LeBron James. Also, it seems former Thunder and USA teammate Kevin Durant has slipped his mind as well.
All kidding aside, answering a question such as this places players in a tough position – at least in regards to their public image. On one hand, if an athlete replies with a name other than their own, they may either come off as humble or as someone lacking confidence in their abilities. But on the other hand, if a player responds similarly to Harden, they’ll likely set up an image of cockiness and almost certainly receive a negative reaction.
Truthfully, the response one obtains from the public almost entirely depends on the athlete’s reputation. In the case of Harden, based on comments he’s made in the past as well as the general manner in which he carries himself, it is likely many people won’t appreciate his answer.
But it really doesn’t matter. James obviously boasts self-confidence, and that’s an exceptional sign for the Rockets moving forward.
You want to know another positive about Harden? The responses he provides for Jackson’s follow-up questions in the interview. Check it:
Scoop: Then here’s the question: Are you where you want to be basketball-wise, even if you are the best?
Harden: Nowhere near close. I’ve got a long way to go, a lot of learning to do, improvements to make. Um, you know, as long as I’m listening and focused on the right things, I can reach my potential.
Scoop: So in your mind, you haven’t reached [your potential] yet?
Harden: Not even close.
So yes, Harden is probably overweening for claiming he’s the best basketball player alive. However, he evidently understands there’s room for improvement, and that is truly a huge testament to who he is as a player.
I’d suggest reading the entirety of this ESPN interview (linked above), as Harden gives great insight into how confidence and work ethic can pay off in the long run.