James Harden’s streak of scoring at least 30 points hit 27 straight games Monday night in the Houston Rockets’ win over the Phoenix Suns. It’s a scoring run that’s only ever been eclipsed by Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain.
But one more-modern legend says that Harden’s dominant style during the streak, while impressive and perhaps even necessary, will not help the Rockets win an NBA title.
Surprisingly that legend is Kobe Bryant
“I’m not a fan of in terms of winning championships, I don’t think that style is ever going to win championships,” Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers star said in a clip released from an upcoming episode of ESPN’s The Jump.
“But at the same time you have to keep your team’s head above water to win games, so you have to do what you have to do to win games. And he’s doing that.”
“So are you saying you don’t think James Harden and the Rockets, as constructed, can win a title?” host Rachel Nichols asked.
“Not with this style of play, it won’t win. With one player dominating the ball,” Bryant replied.
Bryant then broke down strategically why the Rockets’ current style of play can be limiting, “particularly in the playoffs.”
But he did give Harden his due.
“What he’s doing is absolutely remarkable though. It’s a testament to how remarkable it is because people are now trying to minimize what it is that he’s doing. He’s doing some phenomenal stuff.”
Now, you might be saying: Is Bryant really the person who should be saying this? After all, he once averaged 35.4 points per game (2005-06). That was the most anyone not named Michael Jordan had averaged since the NBA-ABA merger until this current Harden season. And Bryant scored that on a stunning 27.2 attempts per game.
Bryant led the league in scoring again in 2006-07 with 31.6 points per game.
As The Athletic’s Michael Lee pointed out, however, those years were far from legendary for the Lakers as they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs both years.
The arrival of Pau Gasol saw Bryant’s minutes, shot attempts and scoring go down — and the Lakers’ success go considerably up. They made three straight NBA Finals and won two titles between 2007-2010 with Bryant averaging 21 field goal attempts and 27.4 points.
During the Lakers’ three-peat to begin the 21st century he averaged 25.4 points on 20 field goal attempts playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal. In fact, the Lakers only won one championship in Bryant’s eight highest-scoring seasons.
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So, maybe Bryant is the perfect person to provide prospective on Harden’s ball-dominating ways.
Harden was asked about Bryant’s comments Monday, and appeared to echo Bryant’s thoughts about having to do anything to win.
“I have to ball-dominate with all of the injuries,” Harden told reporters. “We have had the injuries throughout the course of the year. Right now he is probably right. This way that we are playing won’t happen in the playoffs, won’t get us where we want to go, but we haven’t had a full roster. Yet I am excited for that to come.”
Contributing: Associated Press