Sportress of Blogitude

James Harden believes he’s the best basketball player alive right now


It’s hardly surprising that an NBA player, who by virtue is one of the best basketball players on the planet by belonging to such an esteemed fraternity of professionals, would have a large if not inflated ego. It would be difficult to reach such heights in any chosen profession without a deep and profound belief in oneself.

But Houston Rockets superstar James Harden may have taken it to another level when he boasted to ESPN’s Scoop Jackson that he believes that as of right now, this moment, he’s the best basketball player alive.

Scoop: Bottom line, you are on this team and a lot of players aren’t, but in your mind, who is the best basketball player alive right now?

Harden: Myself.

Scoop: That’s what I was about to say, “including you.” You made that sound like it was an easy answer.

Harden: It is. Myself.

Fair enough. While it may not be accurate, it nevertheless indicates that Harden’s confidence is in the stratosphere. And that deep-seated confidence provides fuel to Harden’s belief that not only is he the best player on the planet, he can get even better.

Scoop: Then here’s the question: Are you where you want to be basketball-wise, even if you are the best?

Harden: Nowhere near close. I’ve got a long way to go, a lot of learning to do, improvements to make. Um, you know, as long as I’m listening and focused on the right things, I can reach my potential.

Scoop: So in your mind, you haven’t reached [your potential] yet?

Harden: Not even close.

The many significant holes in Harden’s logic that he’s the best player alive notwithstanding, when he’s got it going and is on a roll, he is an offensive force with few peers, even at the NBA level.

But there’s a catch, a hitch, a flaw in Harden’s game that leaves his proclamation borderline ludicrous. Most would agree that to be considered the best basketball player in the world, the player should be dominant on both ends of the floor and demonstrate the ability to play defense with as much intensity, precision and skill as one dedicates to his offensive game.

Sadly, Harden falls short in that facet of the game. In fact, his defensive play can’t even be considered competent at times. To put it bluntly, it can be a downright abhorrent thing to watch, actually. To wit:

Yeesh. That video is one damning indictment of Harden’s assertion that he’s the greatest.

Harden speaks at length about focus, commitment and the like when discussing his drive to improve, all good things that will make him a better basketball players. But if none of those things are applied to shore up his significant defensive deficiencies, Harden falls — and will continue to fall — well short of his stated belief that he’s the best.

To Harden’s credit, though, he did demonstrate some humility at the conclusion of the interview. When discussing that he’s motivated by trying “catch” players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant — a statement in and of itself that indicates perhaps even Harden himself doesn’t believe he’s the best player alive — he admits that until he wins a championship, he really has no right to speak.

Scoop: Best time of your life right now?

Harden: Yeah. Definitely. I’m enjoying this. Still trying to catch guys like LeBron, KD and Kobe. You know, just trying to catch those guys. That’s something I get to look forward to every single day to motivate me.

Scoop: That’s your motivation? Still those guys? Because you know you can still serve them on the court every now and then.

Harden: Listen [long pause], until I get rings I can’t say anything.

With all due respect to Harden, it sure seems like he’s saying quite a bit despite conceding that, until he gets some rings, he can’t say anything.