Despite falling short in his quest to guide the Houston Rockets atop the NBA’s Mount Olympus for over the last several years, James Harden still has enough time left to capture the game’s ultimate prize.
In addition to leaving his peers entranced with his on-court exploits, as the reigning Most Valuable Player who has improved upon his annual scoring output every season throughout his career has already cemented his name — and place in the archives — alongside the greatest players to ever grace the hallowed hardwood.
Yet in spite of all the grueling work that Harden has manufactured to garner some of the NBA’s top individual honors, the soon-to-be 30-year-old has fallen short of capturing the most desired reward in all of professional sports.
One that should he obtain it will likely grant him an official place in hoops immortality. In conjunction with lifetime membership in a very exclusive club.
"“As a kid, that’s every kid’s dream, to try and make it to the NBA, try and make it to the NBA title, play the game at a high level,” Harden said per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle when asked about his career and aspirations to win a championship in the midst of the Rockets’ most recent playoff run.“It’s been a driving force since I’ve been in the league…every single day when I get in the gym, that’s what I think about.”"
Although the debate as to whether Harden embodies what it possesses to win a title will never cease until the day he holds the Larry O’Brien Trophy atop of his head, those within The Beard’s personal camp could make the argument that the seven-time All-Star still has more than enough time left to attain his first ring sooner rather than later.
Despite missing out on the chance to seize a title over the course of his 20s, many of the game’s most iconic players — such as Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West — did not get over the hump until their early-to-mid 30s.
There were several others who endured a series of disheartening postseason departures prior to taking home their first championship, as many stars such as Julius Erving, Ray Allen, Clyde Drexler, Elvin Hayes, Oscar Robertson and Dirk Nowitzki did not manage to win one until reaching the age of 32.
While others such as Kevin Garnett and former Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon failed to reach the league’s official summit before turning 31 years old, as Harden’s recent changes to his diet and workout regimen could help him to maximize the rest of his prime years.
Plus help him finally get the championship monkey off of his back —and avoid — the unfortunate fate of going down with John Stockton, Reggie Miller, Elgin Baylor and Steve Nash as one of the greatest players at his position to never lead his team to the promised land.
"“You keep knocking on the door, eventually, the door’s going to open,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said to Feigen when asked about Harden’s pursuit of a championship.“But it takes incredible people to be there all the time. That’s what James has been…he’s taken teams that are not as good a long way. He doesn’t get over the hump and gets criticized for it. He should be praised for getting them there. And he’s learned from the experience.”"
A slew of unfortunate events that die-hard Rockets fans and those across Clutch City hope will serve as the foundation of helping Harden garner his moment in the sun, as the player who once promised his mother he would become a star someday might be down but is not out of the hunt yet.
Just grant him some time, as it might be all that Harden needs to turn his current playoff woes into a thing of the past.