James Harden finished second in the NBA in scoring for three straight seasons from 2014-15 to 2016-17. He has been the league’s top scorer in each of the last two seasons, winning the NBA MVP Award in 2017-18 with 30.4 points per game before reaching a whole new level last season with 36.1 points per game. Harden is one of the most creative offensive players of all time, and that creativity has been on display this offseason.
Over the summer, video footage of Harden’s new shot started popping up online. Harden has been working on a one-legged variation of his step-back shot and has successfully been able to utilize this shot from time to time in a practice setting. These videos have fans wondering if Harden is messing around at practice, or if he really intends to use this shot in NBA games.
James Harden is always trying to innovate and improve
James Harden told ESPN back in August that this new shot wasn’t just a stunt at practice.
“I’m always trying to be creative,” Harden said. “I’m always trying to get better; at basketball, life, business-wise. I’m always trying to find ways to be impactful. With basketball, you have to be creative. This is my 11th year, and every single year I want to get better. I don’t want to stay the same. You’ve got to find ways to keep growing.”
Harden already has a signature shot that he’s proud of in his lethal step-back. “You know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway, and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg, and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’, I love to see that.”
But instead of resting on the laurels of his already successful scoring techniques, James Harden has spent the summer trying to develop a new one.
Harden tried it out in Houston’s first preseason game
Early in the first quarter of Houston’s first preseason game against the Shanghai Sharks on September 30, James Harden unveiled the one-legged three-point attempt in an actual game. Unfortunately for the home crowd that would have assuredly gone nuts if it fell, the shot missed. But after the game, Harden didn’t seem too worried about it.
“It’s already natural,” Harden said after the game. “It’s a shot that I work on, just like the step-back. You make shots, you miss shots, just have confidence and shoot it.” When the reporter asked a follow-up question about Mike D’Antoni saying Harden didn’t need the one-legged shot, Harden quickly agreed.
“I don’t need it,” Harden said. “I can create shots and shoot shots whenever I want. Obviously, I try to do it in the flow of the offense. Whether it’s the step-back or the one-legged shot, I’ll be able to get my shot off. I’m able to create enough space to shoot over the defender. So I don’t need it.”
The new shot adds another wrinkle to his arsenal
Seeing as he’s already the best scorer in the NBA, Mike D’Antoni is right; Harden doesn’t need a new shot. But on the other hand, it won’t hurt to have.
Harden isn’t likely to overuse this trick shot. He will still likely spend most of his possessions using the step-back three or driving to the rim. But if he can also sprinkle this shot in from time to time, it will make him even harder to defend as it will be another possibility that opposing defenses have to worry about.
There’s a chance that this will just end up being a gimmick that Harden busts out for fun in blow-out games. But there’s also a chance that it might become a regular part of his game. It will be fun to see which turns out to be the case; and whether or not these shots will actually fall.