James Harden Disrespected in Recent All-Decade List

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers

Getty James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers.

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for James Harden last season, everyone knew the sales pitch. Harden is a generational scoring talent, pick-and-roll maestro, and former MVP.

Everyone also knew the risks involved. After all, the only reason Harden was available for Philadelphia was because of his behind-the-scenes desire to get out of Brooklyn. And the only reason he was in Brooklyn was because of his very much not-behind-the-scenes desire to leave Houston.

Harden was deemed “an elite quitter” by league insiders, a barb that was fairly well founded. But Harden’s inclusion on a recent all-decade list takes the disrespect to another level. According to Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report, Harden came in at No. 3 on his list of the NBA’s “Best Villians” over the last ten seasons.

But the initial reason for Harden’s dubious honors stems not from his recent actions trading Houston for Brooklyn and then Brooklyn for Philadelphia. No, Harden’s “peak villainy” occurred during his time with the Rockets, dubbed “The Rocket Years” by Bailey.

“Much of the disdain for Harden during his run with the Houston Rockets seemed to be based on two main factors: flopping and aesthetics,” wrote Bailey for Bleacher Report on September 7. “Harden did a ton of the former. And having a game so exclusively built on isolations and trips to the free-throw line was just hard to watch.

“Of course, you can’t really fault him or the Rockets for doing it. During his eight full seasons in Houston, the team was third in the league in winning percentage and first in points per 100 possessions.

“That just didn’t endear him to many fans outside the Rockets’ base.”

Harden’s “flopping” got so out of hand that the league altered its shooting rules to balance against players intentionally drawing shooting fouls, dubbed “the James Harden Rule.”

James Harden Also Blamed for Joining Multiple Teams

Bailey’s castigation of Harden wasn’t limited to what happened on the floor in Houston. Because, as Bailey put it, Harden “turned on them too.”

“Prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, Harden ditched training camp for extravagant celebrity birthday parties and trips to Las Vegas. He appeared to sleepwalk through much of his eight regular-season appearances with Houston that season before he was traded to the Nets,” Bailey said. “About a year later, when he’d grown tired of that situation, he loafed his way into another trade, this time to the Philadelphia 76ers.”

It’s not been a great look for Harden over the last two years. Fortunately, he’s kept his head down this offseason and worked hard to get himself back in form for the Sixers.

Harden Turning Things Around in Philadelphia

In addition to getting his body right for next season, Harden has also been heavily involved in the Sixers’ roster construction. For instance, Harden helped convince free agent Montrezl Harrell to join the Sixers earlier this week.

Harden and Harrell played together for a time in Houston before the latter was traded to the Clippers during his sophomore season. Perhaps Harden’s input-giving is a holdover from Houston, especially since he’s now once again paired up with Daryl Morey.

Regardless, it’s a good sign that Harden is staying involved and in touch with the team this offseason, especially when he’s been so checked out of his team’s plans over the last two summers.

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