The 1 Way James Harden is Unlike Most NBA Superstars

Load management has become an increasingly hot-button topic in the NBA during the last couple of years. With players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard taking the occasional game off to rest and take away strain from past injuries, many feel they are robbing the game experience from fans. One of the NBA’s biggest stars, however, is having none of the load management life, playing in nearly game possible. James Harden is known for his relentless play and non-stop energy, and he does so without ever taking a day off. 

How does load management fit into the modern NBA

Several people, including NBA legends Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, don’t like the idea that multimillion-dollar athletes, especially some of the biggest names in the NBA, are taking games off when fans pay top dollar to see them play in person. Several players support the idea of load management, citing an intense travel, practice, and training schedule that goes along with being in the NBA, but others believe that if you can play, you should play. 

Always the opinionated spirit, Charles Barkley has been vocal about the players who take games off, stating that such things were never entertained when he was still playing in the NBA. 

“I’m never going to agree on ‘load management,’” Barkley said. “It always worked when the greatest players who ever played the game played as much as possible, and they had bad shoes and didn’t have the best doctors in the world like they do today. They also don’t fly commercial like we did … I’d be in coach with some old lady laying on my damn shoulder for three hours, and then have to guard Hakeem Olajuwon or Karl Malone.”

Those same doctors that Barkley mentions, however, might be why load management is more prevalent. More and more injuries are due to strain and overwork. Depending on the training staff, many will encourage guys to take it easy if they want to preserve their bodies. James Harden, however, is having none of that. 

James Harden’s stance on load management

Aside from the lockout-shortened season in 2012, James Harden has never played in fewer than 72 games in an NBA season. He has experienced several injuries, from the hamstring injury that cost him ten games two years ago to the facial injuries he got from Metta World Peace after taking an elbow on a celebratory arm swing following a dunk. 

Harden was asked about load management by the media, to which he passionately talked about how he has never missed a game due to load management. That is true. Even for one of the highest usage players in the NBA, rest isn’t an option in his mind, and he clearly takes pride in the fact that he hasn’t rested when he didn’t have to. 

That is all great for Harden. Somebody who wants to show up at work should be commended, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is right. 

Should Harden adopt load management?

Rockets star James Harden just doesn't believe in load management, unlike other NBA stars.
James Harden (left). | Tim Warner/Getty Images

Though James Harden may not manage his playing load, several players who have seen playoff success while Harden has developed a negative reputation around the league come postseason. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports pointed out exactly why Harden may want to think about what he’s saying. 

Speaking about how he’s never seen Harden take a load management game, Helin noticed something else: 

“I have seen him fade and hit a wall deep in the playoffs, as the heavy load he was asked to carry too long finally caught up with him. The Rockets have suffered for it,” Helin wrote. 

He raises a fair point. Even against an injured Warriors team last year, Harden failed to step up, and exhaustion could have been a reason why. The NBA, its training staffs, and its players may not agree on load management, but there are arguments on both sides that both hurt and help the varying points of view. Whatever the case, Harden feels that he should play every last game he can, and if that is his prerogative, he certainly backs it up with his play.