James Harden has become one of the best scorers to ever play in the NBA. He went from being the third option on the Oklahoma City Thunder to becoming an unstoppable primary option on the Houston Rockets. Harden is in his eighth season with the Rockets, and he is already pretty close to becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He only has one person to catch — Hakeem Olajuwon.
Hakeem Olajuwon was one of the most legendary players to ever play in the NBA
Hakeem Olajuwon was a legendary player even coming into the league as he was selected No. 1 overall in the same draft as Michael Jordan. Olajuwon then was a star from his very first season. He earned an all-star selection in his first season as he averaged 20.6 points per game, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. The all-star selection was his first of six straight, and he ultimately earned 12 in his first 13 seasons.
The Rockets had a lot of success with Olajuwon too. They made the playoffs in his first seven seasons, and he even led them to the NBA Finals in his second season. Houston ultimately lost in the Finals in six games to the Boston Celtics and didn’t reach the NBA Finals again until the 1993-94 season.
Olajuwon and the Rockets went to the NBA Finals in two consecutive seasons in 1993-94 and 1994-95, and they ultimately won back-to-back NBA championships. Olajuwon also won the league’s MVP award in 1993-94 as he averaged 27.3 points per game, 3.7 blocks, and 11.9 rebounds.
The Rockets ultimately went to the playoffs in seven straight seasons from 1992-93 through 1998-99, and Olajuwon played in Houston through the 2000-01 season. He played with the Toronto Raptors in his final NBA season in 2001-02.
For his career, Olajuwon — who is in the Hall of Fame — was a 12-time All-Star and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He is 13th in NBA history with 26,946 career points, and 14th in career rebounds with 13,748. He is also the NBA’s career block leader with 3,830.
James Harden has become an excellent scorer in the NBA
Harden went to the Oklahoma City Thunder with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. He then spent three seasons with the Thunder and had a lot of success. He scored 9.9 points per game in his first season and 12.2 in his second, but then averaged 16.8 points per game in his third season. His stellar play earned him the Sixth Man of the Year award that year, and he ultimately helped lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals.
However, the Thunder traded Harden to the Rockets in October 2012. He has since become one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. He averaged 25.9 points per game in his first season with the Rockets. Then, after scoring 25.4 points per game in his second season, he averaged 27.4 in 2014-15.
Harden then continued to improve in 2015-16 and 2016-17 as he averaged 29 and 29.1 points per game. He also led the NBA in assists with 11.2 in 2016-17. Since 2017-18, though, Harden has led the NBA in points per game in three consecutive seasons. After averaging 30.4 in 2017-18 — and earning the league’s MVP award — he scored a career-high 36.1 points per game in 2018-19. This season, Harden is averaging 34.3 points per game for the Rockets.
James Harden is close to becoming the Houston Rockets’ all-time leading scorer
For his career, Olajuwon scored 26,946 points. However, he scored 26,511 points while on the Rockets, which is the most in franchise history.
In comparison, Harden has scored 20,819 points in his career, as of Aug. 5, 2020. On the Rockets, though, he has scored 18,024 career points as of Aug. 5 with five regular-season games left in the 2019-20 season. That number is second all-time in franchise history.
So, to end the 2019-20 season, Harden will be just over 18,000 career points with the Rockets. That puts him about 8,000 points behind Olajuwon for No. 1 in franchise history. Since joining Houston, Harden has scored between 1,851 and 2,818 points each season. So, he should be able to break the Rockets’ all-time scoring record within the next three to four seasons.
If Harden can accomplish that in that time frame, he would do it at just 33 or 34 years old and in 11 or 12 seasons with the Rockets. Olajuwon ultimately played with the Rockets for 17 seasons and until he was 38 years old, so that’s a pretty impressive feat for Harden.
Whether he ever breaks the record or not, though, Harden is easily one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference