There are a lot of great athletes in the NBA who are just incredible to watch and it only intensifies if you see it LIVE and up-close in person. You’re either amazed by their size or the physics-defying athleticism that’ll make you question what you just watched.
Russell Westbrook is the epitome of that. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard’s athleticism is one of the most explosive things you’ll ever witness in any sport.
But there are some “great” players – even MVP candidates – who are astoundingly boring to watch and it also make you question whether they’re cheating the system.
If you weren’t blessed with the physical attributes to play a sport professionally then it’s likely that you’ll need to seek out a different career path. Not everybody is gifted with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s arm length or LeBron James’ size.
However, there are outliers like Steph Curry who is a scrawny 6’3” and developed his game into becoming the greatest shooter in NBA history.
Or someone like New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees who is just under 6 feet and became one of the greatest pocket passers in NFL history.
If you’re undersized then the road to becoming a professional athlete is almost an anomaly.
Then you have someone like Houston Rockets guard James Harden who is also somewhat undersized compared to the other players in the league at 6’5”, but is currently making a case to receive his second consecutive MVP for this current regular season.
Harden has undeniably put together one of the best single-season campaigns in NBA history, but he’s a boorish chore to watch.
The referees during his games somehow wear blindfolds when it comes to the Rockets guard because he travels all the time and sells fouls better than Daniel Day-Lewis playing any character.
And he’s an absurd isolation player who refuses to pass the ball, which is why his points-per-game is so inflated all the time. It’s just flat-out painful to watch and it’s almost like cheating.
Last Wednesday, when Harden’s Rockets faced off against one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Los Angeles Clippers, announcer Don MacLean noted how unfair Harden’s style of play is.
He said during the broadcast, “I just feel like this style, what Harden does, is manipulating the game somehow. Almost like cheating it somehow. And I don’t really have a thought beyond that other than I’m watching something that isn’t basketball. To me, basketball is player movement, ball movement, designed plays. Not just a guy walking it up and isolating every time. That’s why I brought up that point earlier: Who else could do this? It’s not like that within the system, he’s getting all these numbers. The system is built for him.”
Now there are multiple ways to look at it but MacLean isn’t wrong.
Isolation basketball is the most antithetical way to play the game. It’s a team-oriented sport and Harden’s style is antithesis of it.
And the way he gets fouled is childish – the referees are mostly to blame because they buy the silliness mind you – is a slap in the face to any player who has even an inkling of respect for the traditions of the game. It’s like when a player waits for a defender to jump and then they jump into them causing the foul. Harden’s game represents that sort of obvious injustice.
Lastly, Harden travels all the time with his “step back” three pointer because he manipulates the way it looks when he shuffles his feet instead of take full steps. It doesn’t happen every time but you can clearly see him taking four steps what makes it appear as two.
Sure, Harden is a great player who can pretty much score on anybody but he manipulates the rules to his advantage and it’s annoying to watch. The NBA needs to fix the rules as soon as possible because this isn’t basketball.