James Harden's rise to superstardom through NBA 2K ratings

Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

James Harden is a monster, destroying opposing defenses while under the command of Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni. 

His season was absolutely phenomenal, feeling like the culmination of everything Harden's projected to be for years. He's one of the NBA's best players now, is a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate, and is two victories away from leading his team to the Western Conference Finals.

Eat your heart out, Chris Paul. The Beard's journey has been fairly smooth, with the Arizona State product making an impact early in his career even as a rookie. Harden was the third-overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, joining Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Things have obviously changed quite a bit since then. Harden's now a five-time NBA All-Star, one-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year and has three All-NBA selections to his name. The accolades are there. 

He's gone from averaging 9.9 points, 1.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game as a rookie to averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game at 27 years old. You could call his rise thunderous as he's blasted into his very own stratosphere. 

How does Harden's career curve look like on the NBA 2K scale? Let's take a trip down Harden history and flip through how The Beard's virtual-self has improved while he's become one of the NBA's brightest stars.

The early years

Harden's first foray into the 2K series was NBA 2K10, where he came in with a 76 overall rating. He was behind one rookie in overall rating, that being the explosive Blake Griffin whom you may have heard of before. 

Oklahoma City Thunder's James Harden of

Jonny Flynn (not even in the NBA anymore), Ty Lawson (now on his fourth team) and Tyreke Evans rounded out the top-five. Stephen Curry came in with that class at a paltry 69 overall rating. Looking back is always fun to do!

While Harden had a solid rookie year, he was hardly the player he would soon become. NBA 2K11 saw Harden drop down two points to a 74 overall rating, the fourth-highest rated Thunder player. Yes, he was behind Jeff Green. 

Sixth Man

That rating would hold for 2K12, with Harden once again being rated a 74. That's the same rating as then-Thunder guard Nate Robinson, just four points better than Kendrick Perkins, and one point behind Serge Ibaka. 

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Four

Despite 2K not giving him much love, Harden would go on to capture the Sixth Man of the Year award while the Thunder made their one and only run to the NBA Finals together as a group.

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti made a shrewd financial move trading Harden to Houston that summer, changing the landscape of the entire NBA even still to this day. The ripple effect of the Rockets trade was strong. 

Rocking it for Houston

With an NBA Finals under his belt, a Sixth Man trophy to his name and his skills flourishing, Harden finally saw the big 2K ratings push he deserved. Harden was an 81 overall in NBA 2K13, finally eclipsing the 80 mark.

Harden proved he didn't need the Thunder to succeed during the 2012-13 season, averaging 25.9 points, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. The second-best player on his team may have been Chandler Parsons, but Harden finally had come into his own. 

Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets

That's one of the reasons Dwight Howard made his way to the Rockets, ditching the Los Angeles Lakers. It was clear Harden was on his way to being a legitimate superstar in the NBA, and 2K treated it as such for 2K14. Harden came in rated at an 88. 

Funnily enough, Howard was a 90 overall rating in their first season together. Strange how these things pan out when you look back. Harden would hold at 88 for NBA 2K15, but he'd go on to peak at a 92 rating for NBA 2K16. 

Harden would prove he was well worth that rating, averaging 29 points, 7.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game in 2015-2016. James had clearly arrived. but the Rockets had not. Ultimately, this led to Howard's departure. 

Harden, once again, was alone on the launching pad for the Rockets. 

Most Valuable Beard

That didn't stop him, though. Howard was out, D'Antoni was in as head coach, and Houston was ready to fully unleash the beard on the NBA with one of the league's greatest offensive strategists. 

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Two

2K actually dropped Harden down to a 90 overall for 2K17, somehow docking two points from James' rating despite him putting up career numbers. How would he respond? By leading the Rockets to the No. 3 seed while setting new career-highs.

His 50-point triple-doubles throughout the year were phenomenal, and it seemed every night Harden was burying another poor opponent that simply had no chance. 

We're willing to bet that Harden will see a new career-high in NBA 2K rating when 2K18 launches this September, and rightfully so. Forget fearing the deer, fear the beard, NBA. 

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