Is James Harden better than Kobe Bryant?

In the past few weeks, there have been some voices that said that Harden has become a better scorer than Kobe Bryant and that he surpassed him on the all-time list. In my opinion, I think that it is possible that James Harden is better than Kobe Bryant…if the 5-time champion comes out of retirement after three years without any practice.

First of all, I don’t take anything from James Harden. He has been playing amazing in the last two months and has been averaging historical numbers. So from this standpoint, yes, Harden deserves all the praise, his scoring ability is one of the best in his era. But, let’s look a little bit at the way in which basketball developed over the years. We can all agree that thirty years ago the game was more physical and a lot of contacts was allowed. In the last ten years, the league changed many rules, in order to protect more the shooter and to prevent hard contacts. So, that’s why in this era it is much easier to score because the defense is not as emphasized as in the past.

Secondly, after Steph Curry became this crazy three-point shooter everybody in the NBA started to turn their attention to the three-point line. Big men became interested in training their three-point shooting ability and teams like Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors changed their game plans in order to include three-pointers as their biggest priority. If you look at statistics, teams nowadays are attempting much more three-point shots than in the past and the results are seen on the scoreboards.

And lastly, James Harden is playing in a system where he is encouraged to take as many shots as he can. Mike D’Antoni is known as one of the best offensive coaches in the NBA so he created an environment with pick and rolls where James Harden is the main player. He conducts the offense and every ball and every action goes through him. So if we recap, James Harden is playing in an era where defense isn’t a priority anymore, where shooters are more protected than ever and three-pointers are attempted in every minute and his coach created a great system just for him.

Of course, James Harden’s talent is there, he has to do a lot by himself but let’s think what would Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan do in such conditions.  For example, in 2013, at the age of 34, Kobe Bryant, under Mike D’Antoni’s system, was averaging 27.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 6.0 APG. Now, let’s imagine the 2005-2006 Kobe Bryant, who averaged 35.4 PPG, playing in the conditions that James Harden has. I think that he would average easily more than 40 PPG, maybe even 43 or 44 PPG. The same story goes with Michael Jordan.

So, yes James Harden is an amazing player, a great scorer, but he is not better than Kobe Bryant and he still has a long way to get there.

David Istrate,

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