Still a long way to be called a great: Harden

NEW YORK • After lighting up Madison Square Garden, one of the world's top sporting arenas, James Harden was talked up as one of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) all-time greats.

The six-time All-Star and reigning Most Valuable Player still receives hate from his naysayers on social media who say he racks up points by drawing weak foul calls.

But on Wednesday, he single-handedly took apart the New York Knicks and his critics with a career-high and club-record 61 points, all of which were unassisted.

After the Houston Rockets' 114-110 win, former teammate Jason Terry felt that the guard could catch Kobe Bryant's 81-point display against the Toronto Raptors on Jan 22, 2006 - the second-highest tally in the NBA after Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962.

Harden did match the former Los Angeles Laker's scoring mark at the Knicks' home as he extended his streak of at least 30 points to 21 straight games - the fourth-longest in NBA history. Chamberlain had recorded three such streaks during his playing days.

Harden shot 17 of 38 from the floor but was just five of 20 from beyond the arc. He also had 15 rebounds and made 22 of 25 free throws.

But the league's leading scorer, who is averaging 36.3 points per game, declared he had no intention of letting up as "my legacy is at stake".

He told reporters: "Every time I come to the Garden, I got to put on a show. They (the fans) expect it and that is what I gave them. Basketball is something I love doing. There is no limit to what I can do."

Revealing he wanted to etch his name in the pantheon of NBA greats, the 29-year-old told the Houston Chronicle: "Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, now we're talking about the elites of the game, the greatest to ever touch a basketball.

  • 61

  • Career-high points James Harden recorded against the Knicks, 20 behind Kobe Bryant's 81.

"It's honourable to be up there with those names. Honestly, I have a long way to go. I'm not even close to what they accomplished in their careers. It's pretty cool to be in that conversation and almost there. But I have a lot of work to do.

"That's one of the reasons you play the game of basketball, to be, when it's all said and done, mentioned as one of the greats, the greatest that ever dribbled a ball.

"Obviously, you want to win championships and want the individual accomplishments, but every day when I'm in the gym and work on moves, I think about that.

"When I'm done (with the sport), I want my name up there with them. It's a good place to be in."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2019, with the headline 'Still a long way to be called a great: Harden'. Print Edition | Subscribe