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James Harden Wanting To Be Remembered As A Winner Despite Never Actually Winning Sums His Career Up Perfectly

Adam Pantozzi. Getty Images.

I would like to start this blog by once again establishing that I'm a James Harden guy. It dates all the way back to when we were at ASU at the same time (the fact that this is nearly 20 years ago makes me want to vomit) back when he had just a pencil beard and was arguably the greatest basketball recruit ASU had ever signed (no offense Ike Diogu). I am someone who has thoroughly enjoyed watching him at the next level in what has turned into a no doubt about it first ballot HOF career.

Having said all that, this is some of the wildest shit I've ever heard come out of James Harden's mouth

OK, there's a lot to unpack here. First off, I think you're crazy if you suggest someone like Harden doesn't love and enjoy basketball, but I'm going to assume that's not the part of that quote people will care about.

James Harden will surely be remembered for a lot of things, but winner? I guess that all depends on your definition.

For his career, Harden has won nearly 700 games, not bad! During his prime, he was pretty much a lock for mid-50s in wins. The 2017-18 Rockets won 65 games and you could make the case win a title if CP3 didn't pull his hamstring. If that happened, think of what it means for Harden's legacy and how he's viewed? 

But they didn't. 

Harden does have 2 Gold medals, one in the 2012 Olympics and one for the 2014 World Cup, so it's not as if he's technically never won anything. The issue with that though is similar to what we see with someone like Melo. Does anyone consider Melo a "winner"? I'd say probably not.

So even though Harden has won a shit ton of regular season games, has been a 3x scoring champ which helped translate to wins, a 2x assist champ which helped translate to wins, the 6MOY, 6x All NBA etc, he's sadly never going to beat the allegations. You see, there are two sides to the James Harden story. There's the guy who is without a doubt one of the greatest individual offensive talents in the history of the NBA who's imprint on basketball/offense will last forever. That's not really debatable.

But there is also the Harden who openly quit on his teams. Got fat as shit once he decided to demand multiple trades, went to Vegas and the club instead of training camp, and the of course the playoff history. Sadly, that stuff cannot be ignored either and is part of his story. It's partly what makes him such a polarizing player, and unfortunately, people are going to remember that part of his career way more than his success. When we're talking all-time greats, the actual winning part matters. How you perform on that stage when it's time to advance in the playoffs and win a title matters.

It's not too different from what Joel Embiid is currently experiencing. He is as dominant as dominant can be during the regular season. All NBAs, MVPs, huge numbers, etc. But does anyone consider Embiid a "winner"? I'd say no, because when it comes time to enter the playoffs, he shrinks. Until proven otherwise, that's the deal.

Same shit we're currently seeing with Jayson Tatum. This is a guy who has the stats, the All NBAs, the regular and postseason success, and even STILL the narrative around him is that of a "loser" or a "choker" until he wins a ring (please pause for a quick prayer). 

With Harden, he feels like one of those guys where there is a drastic difference in terms of how fellow NBA players view him and then how the general public does. My guess is other players would probably agree with Harden in that clip, whereas I'm not sure you could find a single fan that will say they will remember James Harden as a "winner", and I'm saying this as a James Harden guy.

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So how will I remember Harden? 

One of the most talented players in NBA history (see: Top 75 team) who helped change how offense is played in the NBA. A generational scorer and playmaker who got close to the top of the mountain but was also a player who you couldn't truly rely on in the postseason. A player who loved to party all night and then give you 40 the next day who was also kind of an asshole when he didn't get what he wanted. 

But "winner"? I dunno, to me that has to come with actually "winning" a title.