James Harden Just Showed a Ton of Respect for His Biggest Rivals

In recent seasons, James Harden has gone on a run. From a scoring standpoint, he’s the best player in the NBA. The guard is nearly impossible to cover one-on-one, and he’s been able to utilize new rules favoring offensive players to execute some truly outstanding basketball for the Houston Rockets.

Harden’s team has not experienced the same success, however. While the Rockets have knocked on the door of a championship in the last few years, they have not reached the final milestone. One rival that’s stood in Harden’s way recently faltered yet he went out of his way to show them respect.

James Harden’s 2019 season so far

Harden is having yet another great offensive season in 2019. Here’s what he’s been able to put up statistically so far this year: 

  • 34 games played
  • 38.4 points per game
  • 7.6 assists per game
  • Six rebounds per game
  • 32.5 Player Efficiency Rating
  • 8.3 Win Shares

Harden’s Rockets are having a decent year, too. At 24-11 through 35 games, they’re currently fourth in the Western Conference. They’re right in the thick of the playoff race as a serious contender. 

The one rival James Harden’s teams have struggled against

James Harden of the Houston Rockets is guarded by Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors
James Harden is guarded by Klay Thompson of the Warriors | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Harden has evolved from being a young role player with potential in Oklahoma City to one of the great isolation scorers of all time. Despite his historic accomplishments, Harden still hasn’t been able to lead a team to a championship. His biggest roadblock? The Golden State Warriors. 

In the postseason, Harden’s Rockets have matched up with the Warriors four times. They haven’t fared well, losing all four series. Here’s how it’s gone down in each seven-game series: 

  • 2015 Western Conference Finals: Warriors 4, Rockets 2
  • 2016 Western Conference first-round: Warriors 4, Rockets 1
  • 2018 Western Conference Finals: Warriors 4, Rockets 3
  • 2019 Western Conference semifinals: Warriors 4, Rockets 2

The closest the Rockets came took place in the 2018 Western Conference Finals when they took a 3-2 series lead into Game 6. Houston could not overcome the Warriors’ dynamic core. They dropped Game 6 on the road and Game 7 at home. 

This year, the Warriors are a far cry from where they were in the past. Kevin Durant left via free agency while Klay Thompson and Steph Curry are both injured. And Harden’s reaction to their bad luck may surprise you. 

How James Harden showed a ton of respect for the Golden State Warriors

You’d think, based on his team’s struggles against the Warriors, Harden would jump for joy at the Golden State’s misfortunes this season. But Harden commented on the plight of the Warriors recently.

His answer was much more diplomatic than one would predict: “The game is missing obviously Steph and Klay and, you know, they’re the core, and obviously Draymond, the core of that group and that team … Obviously the game and the fans are missing them.”

Though Harden’s Rockets have struggled against Golden State, his status as one of the great players of his era shines through here. He clearly values the overall history of the game, and he appreciates the indelible mark the Warriors have left on it. 

It’s common for fans to “hate” on any sports league’s most dominant teams. But NBA basketball was better off for the Warriors dominance. Their run of sheer excellence is one of the best of all time and certainly of the modern era.

Harden understands this. But it remains to be seen whether he’ll share the sentiment when the Warriors return full-strength next season. Regardless, it’s a good bet that Harden will be up to the challenge. 

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