Could James Harden become the best player to ever wear a Rockets uniform?
Ever since the 2012-13 season, his first in Houston, James Harden has played like a superstar.
He’s averaged 27.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists in the past five seasons, leading the Rockets to the playoffs in every year.
And now he’s getting paid like a superstar.
Back in July, the Rockets signed Harden to a four-year, $170 million contract extension. With two years left in his previous contract, Houston has locked Harden up until the 2022-23 season. Barring a trade, James Harden will spend his prime years playing for the Houston Rockets.
Harden is already probably the most beloved athlete in Houston. After he donated $1 million to charities in an effort to aid those affected by Hurricane Harvey, a fan asked Harden to never ever leave Houston. James responded to the fan, reassuring him that he’s a Rocket for life.
Promise I won't. #Rocket4Life
— James Harden (@JHarden13) September 2, 2017
Obviously, James Harden is the centerpiece and the face of the Houston Rockets’ franchise. But the NBA is a business, and with a couple of injury-riddled or underperforming seasons, the narrative can change in a heartbeat.
With that being said, Harden has established himself as one of the elite players in the game. If James does spend the rest of his career in Houston, could he become the best player in franchise history?
How can Harden become the best Rocket of all-time?
Lets get this out of the way – Hakeem Olajuwon is the best Rocket of all-time. He was lethal down low and in the mid-range, could block shots and pick your pocket, led the Rockets to their only two NBA titles and his patented “Dream-Shake” was one the most unstoppable moves ever.
James Harden will probably never be the defender that Hakeem was, but Harden is absolutely lethal offensively.
Not only did Harden lead the league in assists while placing second in points a season ago, but he also became the first player to score and assists on 2,000 points in a single season. His 53-16-17 stat line against the New York Knicks was impressive enough to rival some of Olajuwon’s quaddruple-double games.
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Harden can put up numbers with the NBA’s elite, but his postseason success will determine his place on the all-time charts.
Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson and Reggie Miller aren’t always held in the same regard as other stars that weren’t necessarily more talented, but were more successful in the postseason. Heck, even Harden’s teammate Chris Paul, for all of his basketball brilliance, is often scrutinized for failing to reach the NBA Finals.
In the past, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal stopped a lot of players who were very talented from ever winning a championship. In today’s game, it’s LeBron James in the East and the Golden State Warriors in the West that are running a monopoly on the path to the NBA Finals.
For Harden to become the best basketball player in franchise history, he needs to match or exceed Olajuwon’s two championship titles.
It’s going to be a challenging feat in the loaded Western Conference, but in order to become synonymous with greatness, Harden has to lead his team to the promise land.