NBA’s Harden ranks right up there with Wilt

Fred Jeter | 2/22/2019, 6 a.m.
James Harden is turning into a modern day Wilt Chamberlain on the basketball court. The Houston Rockets guard is running …
Wilt Chamberlain

James Harden

James Harden

James Harden is turning into a modern day Wilt Chamberlain on the basketball court.

The Houston Rockets guard is running away with the NBA’s individual scoring championship, much like Chamberlain did more than a half century ago.

Through Feb. 17, the 6-foot-5 Harden was averaging 36.6 points per game. Behind him are Oklahoma City’s Paul George at 28.7 points, Golden State’s Steph Curry at 28.6 points and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis at 28.1 points.

If Harden is able to maintain his blistering pace, it will be the NBA’s highest scoring average since the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 during the 1986-87 season.

Chamberlain led the NBA in scoring seven times, including his hard-to-believe 50.4 average from 1961 to 1962 for the Philadelphia Warriors (later becoming the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors).

Four of the top seven scoring averages in NBA annals belong to the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain.

Matching Chamberlain’s numbers would be next to impossible. But if anyone can, it may be Harden, the bearded, 29-year-old Los Angeles native and former Arizona State standout.

Harden’s current scoring is no fluke.

Since going to Houston from Oklahoma City prior to 2012-13, Harden has averaged 26.3, 26.9, 27.2, 26.6, 28.5 and 28.6 a year ago when he led the league. He was also league MVP last season.

He enjoyed one stretch earlier this season when he scored a “Wilt-like” 153 points in three games, a 51-point norm.

His high was 61 points in a Jan. 23 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. It tied (with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant) for the most points ever scored at the Garden by a visiting player.

On Feb. 13, Harden scored 42 points in Houston’s loss to Minnesota. It also marked the 31st straight game in which he scored at least 30 points.

Harden had another stretch when he averaged 41.2 points over 20 games. It was the hottest 20-game stretch since Bryant in 2005-06.

Among other things, Harden is known for his “step-back jumper,” his “Euro step” (quick change of direction) and his relentless attack of the rim.

He leads the NBA in foul shots attempted (620) and made (540) — about 87 percent accuracy.

Comparisons between Harden, a bachelor, and Chamberlain (who told of his love life in his book, “A View from Above”) extend to romance.

Harden is a former significant other of celebrity Khloe Kardashian. After their breakup in 2016, Harden began dating actress Karrueche Tran.

He is currently in a relationship with singer Ashanti.

Harden is well compensated for his basketball brilliance. His current annual salary is $30.57 million.

By the NBA’s towering standards, Harden is a bit on the smaller side compared to others who have scored in the mid-30s per game.

Among the Top 25 all time, single season scorers, only Harden, Nate Archibald and Allen Iverson are true guards. Michael Jordan played some at guard but was primarily a small forward.

All others on the Top 25 list were primarily forwards and centers. Others in the Top 25 but not on the Top 10 list here are Bob McAdoo, George Gervin, Bernard King and Tracy McGrady.

Harden and Chamberlain share another common trait — their jersey number. Both sport No. 13. That’s considered an unlucky number by some, but it certainly hasn’t been for them.