ESPN usually has constant Houston Rockets slander on their airwaves from various esteemed panelists and basketball experts. Recently, they offered a heap of praise toward Rockets’ guard James Harden.
It’s been well-documented that ESPN and the national media have a bias against the Houston Rockets and especially James Harden. During ESPN’s preseason rankings, they picked the Rockets to be the team with the most turmoil, in addition to picking the Rockets as the sixth-most likely team to win the title. To put that into perspective, the network predicted the Golden State Warriors to have a better season than the Rockets this year, which is laughable considering the Warriors’ 4-18 record thus far this year (although the Curry injury certainly attributes to that).
Although ESPN has been known to criticize the Rockets and James Harden, Stephen A. Smith offered rare praise for superstar guard James Harden when the question was posed on whether The Beard is the greatest scorer of the league’s current era. The question was raised on First Take with Molly Qerim Rose and Max Kellerman, who is known to be a frequent critic of the Rockets.
In the segment, Max Kellerman offered the take that Kevin Durant is the greatest scorer of the era, citing KD leading the league in scoring on four occasions compared to Harden’s three scoring titles. In addition, he also added how Durant was the go-to-guy when they both played on the Oklahoma City Thunder while Harden was the team’s sixth-man and was relegated to the bench. Kellerman also mentioned how Durant was the more efficient scorer, which is an interesting take considering how he started by referencing their Oklahoma City playing days.
During Harden’s last two seasons with the Thunder, he shot 46.4 percent from the field compared to KD’s 47.9 percent and Harden also shot 37 percent from 3-point range compared to Durant’s 36.9 percent.
Not only that, Harden actually had a better 3-point percentage in his final year in OKC than Durant as well, so it’s interesting for Kellerman to mention efficiency and their OKC playing days because there’s simply not a big enough margin to state that claim. Not to mention the fact that Harden’s true shooting percentage was 62.9 percent compared to Durant’s 59.9 percent during that same span.
Stephen A. Smith actually disagreed with Kellerman’s take and said James Harden would be his pick over Durant. The money quote is below:
James Harden is the most shameless scorer in NBA history. If Harden had to shoot 53 free throws to beat you, he’d do it. If he had to shoot 30 3-pointers, he’d do it. KD doesn’t want to beat you that way and James Harden doesn’t care….you could go to James Harden and say ‘I need you to shoot 70 times.’ Harden would say ‘okay, no problem.’ He doesn’t take time off or try to engage in load management. He’s a great offensive player but he’s also thirsty. James harden is one of the greatest scorers in history of basketball because he’s got the outside/inside game and he’s willing to get to the free-throw line.”
That’s a lot to digest. It’s interesting to hear Stephen A advocate for Harden and give him credit for being willing to lead the Houston Rockets to victory by any means necessary, as opposed to Durant wanting to play “the right way”. It’s also refreshing to hear a national basketball “expert” actually credit Harden for his willingness to get to the free-throw line, as it seems that’s become a punching bag area toward The Beard.
It’s also a pleasant surprise to hear Harden get credited for his shot attempts, especially from beyond the arc, as Smith portrayed this as Harden’s desire to win the game in the most “shameless” way possible.
Another thing that seems to have gotten overlooked regarding Harden in the current landscape of the NBA is his unwillingness to rest and engage in load management, which Stephen A also credited Harden with. All in all, this was quite unusual considering ESPN’s constant anti-Rockets takes.
It’s certainly not often when anyone from ESPN offers any sort of praise toward the Houston Rockets or James Harden. This might be a day for Rockets’ Nation to mark down in history, as we don’t know when it will come again.