James Harden Has Found Himself in an Eerily Similar Situation To Another All-Time Great

James Harden is one of the best basketball players on the planet. From his early days as Sixth Man of the Year on a young Oklahoma City Thunder team to his recent stretch of MVP-caliber seasons, he is a scoring threat like nobody has ever seen. However, if there’s one thing Harden is missing, it’s a ring. Retired NBA legend Ray Allen recently spoke about what the new Brooklyn Nets player could do to change that. 

Ray Allen vs. James Harden

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On paper, Ray Allen isn’t the first player someone is going to compare to James Harden. One of the greatest shooters of all time, Allen played in a league that wasn’t as trigger-happy as the current NBA. The consummate leader took his Milwaukee Buck and Seattle Supersonic teams to the playoffs. But he didn’t win a ring until later on in his career. 

However, where Allen can resonate with Harden most is in his status as a ringless star, details Fansided. Allen eventually won two rings after 32 years of age. That’s one year older than Harden. Harden is more of a quintessential superstar than Allen ever was. But he can still learn some lessons from the retired sharpshooter, who won rings with the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. 

For all of Harden’s talent on the court, he has a reputation as a player who makes everything about him. While he led the Rockets deep into the playoffs, he’s yet to prove he can lead any team to a ring. With the Thunder, his best chance resulted in him demanding a trade after struggling in the Finals against the Heat. However, according to Allen, it’s never too late to adjust. 

Allen opens up

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Allen was 32 years old when he joined Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston. At the time, he was considered one of the best shooters in the league. Yet he experienced minimal playoff success and wasn’t viewed as a winner at the time. Going to Boston was a wake-up call to Allen, who spoke about this with Sports Illustrated

“It was extremely frustrating,” Allen told the magazine, “because I had to readjust to how I thought about offense, and how much about my offense, to play the game.”

Once he entered practice with Doc Rivers and the Celtics, he realized that sacrifices would be in order not just by him, but by the entire team. “Doc is screaming my head off,” Allen recalls, “telling me that my first look is always on the post, always down low.”

Allen sees Harden in a similar situation. While he can, undoubtedly, do what needs to be done to make the playoffs, he has to sacrifice his will to the Brooklyn Nets if he wants to make it further. Now, the question is whether he’s up to the task. 

Can James Harden still win his ring? 

James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets looks on before a game
James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets looks on before a game | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The same article by Sports Illustrated includes anonymous quotes from several league executives. When asked if Harden had what it took to sacrifice like Allen and Garnett, one executive did not mince words. “I don’t think he is,” they said. “James is like Allen Iverson: He wants to win his way and put up historical numbers while he’s winning. I would never question their desire to win, but they all want to win on their terms.”

A western executive said something similar. “It’s hard for me to envision him playing any other way,” although he added, “I’m not sure if that’s him or the Rockets.”

Harden is 31 and still playing some of his best basketball. However, the NBA comes with a finite window for a player like him to prove his ultimate worth. When he requested a trade from the Thunder almost a decade ago, he wanted to show that he could make it all the way while being No. 1. As of now, he has not done that, details Sideline Sources

Perhaps, Harden would be wise to look at Allen, Garnett, and the Boston Celtics during that era to see what can happen if he makes a sacrifice. His place as one of the best scorers in NBA history is unquestionable. However, with the Rockets or with his future team, he might need to sacrifice points and spotlight space to get ahead.