James Harden Joins Select Club While Leading Brooklyn Nets in Los Angeles

Harden's versatility and range on display in wins over Lakers and Clippers

James Harden turned Brooklyn’s California Christmas trip into an L.A. takeover, throwing in a visit to his high school alma mater in between slicing up the Lakers and Clippers and notching some milestone numbers that made him part of an elite NBA club.

With his 15 assists against the Clippers on Monday night, Harden became the 10th player in NBA history to compile 20,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, and 6,000 assists. This select list includes Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, John Havlicek, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Gary Payton, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and Russell Westbrook.

Harden is currently 32nd in NBA history with 22,662 points and 38th with 6,005 assists. It’s possible he’ll crack the top 30 in both categories by the end of the season.

“Just want to win,” said Harden. “Just trying to find ways to impact the game on a night-in, night-out basis. That's it, man. I just try to go out there and do what I can to the best of my abilities every night and helping our team rebound, hitting our guys for open shots, hitting our bigs, make it easy for them and scoring the ball. Being that triple threat that I can be every single night. I'm sure the other nine guys are elite and Hall of Famers so I just got to keep pushing.”

Harden has established himself as one of the most versatile and all-around impactful players in NBA history. The group he joined Monday night includes four of the six players ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time triple-double list. Harden posted the 63rd of his career on Christmas Day.

He’s also one of only seven players in NBA history to have led the league in both scoring and assists. After averaging 11.2 assists in 2016-17 to lead the NBA, Harden was the league’s top scorer the next three seasons. His average of 36.1 points per game in 2018-19 is the seventh highest single-season mark in league history — only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan ever averaged more.

Harden is currently second in the league with 9.8 assists per game while also averaging 22.0 points and 8.0 rebounds.

“He’s historically great,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “The numbers he’s put up are incredible. He’s one of the best players of his generation and it’s mind-boggling to think of all the numbers he’s put up and all the success he’s had. He’s one of those very, very special players not only of his generation but historically and the numbers back it up.”

In ushering himself into that select club, Harden capped off a stunning two-night set in his hometown. On Christmas Day, he put up a triple-double against the Lakers with 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. It was the fifth 30-point triple-double for Harden as a Net, extending his franchise record. Beyond Harden, there have been 12 30-point triple-doubles in the entirety of Nets history.

In Monday night’s win over the Clippers, Harden matched his season-high with 39 points while shooting 15-for-25, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range, with a season-high 15 assists and eight rebounds. It was his fourth 30-point, 15-assist game in his 64 games as a Net. It’s been done five other times in Nets history.

“They were doubling him tonight a lot too,” said Nash. “Every time he was isolated they would send another man and he was I think very slick in getting off the ball early and giving our guys time to play 3-on-2, 2-on-1. He not only stuffed the stat sheet but he also I think initiated a lot of great opportunities for the rest of the guys by giving on-time, early deliveries out of the double team and allowing them that little extra window of space and time to make the right read and they were very good as well off the ball.”

While the Nets were in Los Angeles, Harden visited Artesia High School on Sunday for a jersey retirement ceremony. Before moving on to Arizona State and the NBA, Harden led Artesia to two state championships and was a McDonald’s All-American as a senior. Harden his been sponsoring Artesia’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams via adidas, and his Impact13 Foundation will be refurbishing weight rooms, locker rooms, and an indoor court at the school, in addition to making a $10,000 donation to support scholarships for deserving graduates.

“High school is where I actually fell in love with learning how to work hard, learning how to actually train, learning how to stay in the gym and lock myself in the gym and find things that I can get better at in basketball,” said Harden. “From just hooping with the homies outside in high school, finding pick-up games around the city, all that stuff man. That was where I fell in love with the game of basketball and it’s introduced me to a lot of different people, and it took me to a higher place to where I’m able to provide for my family, and a lot of people around the world. So that was a special moment for me yesterday and I definitely embraced that.”

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