You have to give James Harden credit. At least the Houston Rockets superstar is embracing his role in the NBA world’s most tired, ultimately meaningless debate.
During a break between his commitments on All-Star Saturday, Harden was questioned – or shouted, at really – by one extra bold fan about his perceived penchant for traveling.
James Harden holds up 10 fingers when asked how many steps is a travel. 😭 (submitted by noahlevine_, jackpotier/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/pL7Rihcdzn
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) February 16, 2019
The discourse surrounding Harden’s footwork has entered the mainstream again this season, as he wrecks the brains of stickler viewers across the globe with step-back three after step-back three. To be fair, there’s indeed some gray area here when it comes to the evolution of Harden’s signature move. The double step-back, in which he gathers his dribble while moving backward before taking another one-two behind the three-point line, is indeed a travel on the occasions when he doesn’t quite pick up the ball at exactly the right moment.
Otherwise, though, there’s almost no merit to the endless criticism of officials for failing to call traveling on Harden. Remember a few years ago, when Harden further weaponized the Eurostep that Manu Ginobili first made famous? Basketball fans everywhere were hemming and hawing back then, too, 100 percent confident he was taking an extra step because they had never seen that move utilized to such effect before.
In time, Harden’s normal step-back will grow similarly understood. But until then, he’ll be subject to questions like this from casual fans again, and again, and again.