When Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson were both inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last year, the Big Aristotle looked out at AI from the podium and said Iverson was “a bad man.” Iverson wasn’t quite able to topple O’Neal’s Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, even though Iverson won NBA MVP that year. Someday a big man will look out at James Harden from the Hall of Fame podium and say he was a bad man too. Will Harden be wearing a championship ring? Who knows. But otherwise he’ll have a lot in common with Iverson.
When Iverson won his MVP in 2000-01, he was playing essentially the same position Harden started playing for the Rockets this year — point guard who’s also the top scorer. Contemporary occupants of Iverson’s dual role gig are Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, and Harden. Iverson averaged 42 minutes per game and 31.1 points, going to the line ten times a game and dishing 4.6 assists in his MVP year. Harden’s 2017 assists are 2.5x those of Iverson’s at 11.9 apg. And Harden’s scoring at a similar 28.4 ppg in just 36.6 mpg. (nobody logs 42 minutes a game anymore; Harden led the NBA in mpg last year with 38.1.) Harden also goes to the line ten times a game. Is it an MVP season. Could well be. Is it Rockets in the finals? That’s harder, but Harden is a bad man.