How’s the view up there, James Harden? It took 828 games to reach the summit, but the longtime Rocket finally planted his flag Sunday night, becoming the highest-scoring left-hander in the NBA’s storied history.
Harden’s jumper wasn’t falling against Milwaukee—he shot an anemic 5-of-14 from the field including 3-of-12 from beyond the arc—but thanks to his 11 free throws, the 11th-year guard was still able to put 24 points on the board, bringing his career total to 20,796. That puts Harden six points clear of David Robinson for 44th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
The NBA has had its fair share of successful left-handers—Robinson, Bill Russell, Chris Bosh and Manu Ginobili have all made lasting impacts while Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson find themselves on similar trajectories. But Harden, the league’s scoring champ for three years running, tops all of them in the points department. While Harden largely took a backseat to Russell Westbrook (31 points) in Sunday’s victory, the eight-time All-Star was magnificent in Friday night’s overtime triumph over Dallas, pouring in 49 points on elite 14-of-20 shooting (he also found the net on 18 of his 21 free-throw tries) in his bubble debut.
As I discussed in last week’s joint article with Jordan Cohn, Harden doesn’t play the most aesthetically-pleasing brand of basketball, relying heavily on low-percentage long-range shots and drawing contact. His penchants for flopping and lazy defense (to his credit, he does annually rank among the league leaders in steals) don’t make him any easier on the eyes, but there’s no denying Harden’s infuriating effectiveness.
Even in the absence of an NBA title (though he did earn an Olympic gold medal in 2012), Harden is probably headed to Springfield on a golden chariot. And now, by virtue of passing Robinson, he can officially call himself the highest-scoring lefty in hoops history. Unfortunately, given the league’s recent crackdown on adult establishments (blame it on Lemon Pepper Lou), Harden will have to wait to celebrate his accomplishment.