The game of basketball has always been evolving. It is human nature to attempt to find better and more efficient ways to approach set processes but where do the boundaries between innovation and distortion lie?
Is James Harden is attempting to cheat or is he pushing the game forward?
This becomes very difficult to see when you take in account the sanctity of the game from a purist’s point of view and the future of the game from an innovator’s perspective.
“In the NBA, especially the highest level of basketball, you gotta find ways to get better every single year and you gotta find ways to create an advantage every single year and that’s what I’m doing,” stated Harden. “This year, I’m gonna come up with something more creative that’s going to look like its a travel but it’s not.”
I do not disagree with James Harden’s point but it is his method and the justification of it that makes me think twice.
Case in point; the alley-hoop was a revolutionary concept to basketball in its inception but it did not break any of the existing rules of the game. Taken even further, throwing the ball off of the backboard to yourself in order to execute the same result is the next step in the evolutionary process but again it is not a violation of any existing rules.
This is an example of forward thinking and out strategizing your opponent.
From what I have gathered, through countless video breakdowns of his foot work in question, is the fact that he gets away with what he does. There are many factors involved as to why this happens that make it even harder to accept this point of view.
Very many times, you can argue that his move remains within the guidelines of the rules depending on your interpretation of traveling. However, there are many times that he does not execute his footwork well and is still not penalized for it for whatever reason.
That creates an unfair advantage that deviates from the rules which others are being held to. Stephen Curry was called for traveling in a game utilizing the same technique.
From a referee’s point of view, the game would go on forever if they began to blow their whistles every time there was a traveling violation and certain players count on that fact. How can this be considered creating an advantage against your opponent as opposed to creating advantage against the referees? Don’t they already have enough to worry about?
In regard to his statement, why would you concentrate on deceiving the referee by inventing a move that looks like traveling? Shouldn’t the deception be directed towards your defender as he/she attempts to predict your next move? How is this different from flopping in order to get the foul call?
For many years, the true meaning of “creating an advantage” was adding other aspects of the game to your arsenal such as pivot footwork, working on your weak hand, shooting reps for consistency and different scoring ranges as well as angles off of the glass. More recently, it has come to include a physical regimen that focuses on your athletic attributes and conditioning.
As with every game known to mankind, once you have established the rules, the true measure of your abilities lies within your decision making. The advantage everyone should seek is the level of skill and the application of it.
There is no doubt in my mind that Harden is a great player. I’m just curious as to how he will push his skills to the next level as opposed to the rules and the perception of the referees.