Despite having yet to successfully reach his ultimate goal of capturing an NBA championship, Houston Rockets guard James Harden shares many similar traits to the late Kobe Bryant. Here’s why the late Los Angeles Lakers icon should help us appreciate The Beard more.
In addition to being a thorn in the side of the Houston Rockets during his reign atop the sport, Kobe Bryant transcended the game of basketball. In a land long before NBA news and highlights circulated rapidly across the digital space, Kobe was widely revered by fans as the most captivating player in his profession. The late great legend, whose game drew many comparisons to Michael Jordan, is regarded by the majority of his league-wide peers as one of the game’s greatest players.
The man known as The Black Mamba would utilize his on-court alter ego to propel his team to wins come crunch time over the course of many games, including on the league’s premier stage when called upon, capturing five championships during his 20-year stint donning the purple and gold.
During a recent postgame interview with members of the media, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni spoke in high regard when asked about the iconic hoops figure he once had the pleasure of working alongside for a short stint. “He’s one of the greatest players ever. An unbelievable competitor…every accolade he got, he earned. He just kept coming at you. There won’t be many like him, that’s for sure”, said D’Antoni.
However, there is one particular guy whose current individual scoring exploits are eerily similar to Bryant’s. One who shared a special relationship with the 18-time All-Star, and grew up honing his game in the same city where the kid from Lower Merion High School provided him with an initial glimpse of what nightly greatness looked like — James Harden.
When asked which modern-day player he would seek to build a given team around outside himself in a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live several years ago, Bryant wasted no time selecting Harden as his top choice.
In a time where so many of the league’s marquee stars have sought to depart their respective teams on an annual basis, Harden has helped grant Houston sports fans with a strong level of assurance that most franchises and owners desire in today’s ever-changing NBA landscape.
— Bob Slovak (@BobSlovak13) July 15, 2017
The 30-year-old, who has taken his skills to new levels since landing in Houston, has been known to possess a work ethic and demeanor that is akin to his mentor. Like Kobe, Harden has cemented himself as the face of a franchise, and he will continue to play that role for years to come.
Kobe never once looked to take the easy way out even in the midst of playing with less than optimal teammates, and although Harden has yet to win a title, one could easily argue loudly that The Beard is the true embodiment of what is known as the Mamba Mentality whenever he steps onto the hardwood.
Despite his many postseason shortcomings, Harden has more often than not left it all out on the court year after year. As the man who is on pace to win his third consecutive scoring title, James has willingly accepted the criticism that comes with being regarded as the most important player on the team when it’s warranted.
Being able to shrug off hate in tough times is something that made a legend like Kobe Bryant widely celebrated, yet is a quality often underappreciated and overlooked when it comes to Harden.
With the loss of one of basketball’s most beloved figures, we should look to honor his memory forever while also cherishing a man who tries his hardest to emulate his idol. Finding a way to do so could help us to find peace and pay our respects before its too late.