Is James Harden the greatest scorer ever?

James Harden Rockets
Photo: Twitter/NBA

Scoring is a big part of the game of basketball. It is the aim of the game to be precise. And throughout the NBA, we’ve seen some incredible scorers, but who is the best?

Well, there’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who’s scored the most points in NBA history so he has to be in the conversation. Michael Jordan averaged 30 points a game for his career and in the 1986-87 season, averaged an astronomical 37.1 points per game that season, so he needs to be in the conversation. But personally, I believe neither of those two is the greatest scorer ever. If either of these two is the greatest scorer of all time though, I think it is MJ so I’ll only compare Harden to MJ for this article.

Unlike MJ, Harden has not been dominant his whole career and he didn’t consistently start until his fourth year in the NBA. But these past 5 years, we’ve seen scoring dominance like no other, as he’s averaged 31.7 points per game since the start of the 2015-16 season. The only player to outdo him is MJ himself who averaged 33.9 points per game from 1986 to 1981. However, if you work out how many points per minute they averaged over their 5 year periods, they both averaged 0.86 points per minute, so you can count them as equal.

Where they vary drastically though, is how they get their points. Back in the 80s and 90s, the mid-range shot was the most common shot in the league, but it’s a dying art in today’s game. Harden gets just under a third of his points at the free throw line, just over a third of his points from behind the 3 point line, and the remainder on layups and floaters. You’d struggle to find a game where Harden will shoot a single mid range shot.

So who’s game is superior? Well, both of their games were era appropriate so it’s impossible to say one is better than the other. But personally, I find the way that Harden can manipulate his defenders into fouling him time and time again is more impressive than what MJ could do on offense. MJ is without a doubt a far better player overall, as he’s one of the best defensive players ever too. But for the best scorer of all time, I give the crown to Harden.

How do Lebron and Anthony Davis compare to other great NBA duos?