Best of the Rockets

Can James Harden ever catch Hakeem Olajuwon for greatest Rocket?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We have always wondered if James Harden will ever match the success of Hakeem Olajuwon. There is no question that Harden is great, but will he be able to fill the shoes of Hakeem? These questions needed to be answered soon but when will they be?

Hakeem and Harden are honestly the best two players to ever put on a Rockets uniform. Even though these players are great, Hakeem's name weighs more than Harden. Hakeem has accomplished more by going back to back in the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals. He is also No. 11 in all-time scoring. Like Harden, Hakeem terrorized defenders with his versatile post moves. He even created a move called the "The Dream Shake" which is now transcendent in the NBA. Hakeem was a twelve-time all-star, won defensive player of the year twice and made the NBA First Team six times. In addition, he was on the NBA Defensive Team five teams, and became an MVP in 1994. His accomplishments are through the roof, but Hakeem was also a team player by doing everything on the court. Hakeem even recorded two quadruple doubles in the same month in the 1987 season. His ability was so unbelievable and un-guardable that they called him the "The Dream." Players like Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan will always pay their respects to the best center in basketball. Does this huge shadow still stand over Harden? Should he have live up to these expectations?

Harden will never have a hard time breaking records nor being a MVP candidate in the NBA. He is easily today the best scorer in the league. Harden has accomplished a host of good deeds in this league by winning the Sixth Man of the Year award as well as the MVP award. He has also made the All-NBA Team six times, the All-Star team seven times, and the NBA First Team five times. Coaches in the NBA have a tough time figuring out the defense they will use for Harden. Harden gives most teams fits by getting to the line or using his unorthodox step back jumper. That step can now be seen in the WNBA, NBA, and in many, many high schools. Harden's creativity is the only thing that makes him comparable to Hakeem. Time and time again, analyst, reporters, and fans have questioned the true heart of Harden.


Hardens full ability to the game of basketball still has not been reached yet. Even though Harden has gotten better on defense, there are still questions regarding it. Analysts have pointed out the fact that he is a pretty good post defender and was second in steals last season. Harden would really become a great player if he tried to guard players like Steph Curry, LeBron James, or Paul George. He has also struggled to become a team player by not getting his teammates involved enough. That causes them to lose confidence in their shot making ability. Also dribbling the ball to the final digit has not helped his case either. Another flaw that Harden has is not approaching playoff games in a strong manner. Harden can also disappear during big games in the playoffs. He has been in Houston for seven seasons and never has seen the NBA Finals. We have always wondered if Harden will ever win a Championship in Houston. Harden will be all out of excuses if he cannot win one with Russell Westbrook.


Hopefully one day Harden will be able to get rid of Hakeem's shadow by matching his success or overcoming it.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome