Giannis or Harden? The MVP question that’s dividing the NBA

Based on a sampling of attitudes on the topic over All-Star Weekend, there’s a chance the coming Most Valuable Player race could morph into a bit of a basketball culture war.

Just to be clear, there are no hard feelings. Everyone, particularly the dozen-plus players surveyed on the matter, agrees the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo are having brilliant seasons — with many nods toward Paul George, who has taken an unexpected leap in Year 2 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just because someone might favor one over the other doesn’t make it an inherent dis.

While players acknowledge Harden’s mastery, some are put off by the style: both the way the Rockets play and the way Harden expertly uses the current rules to his advantage. The enforcement of freedom of movement rules and the relaxing of travel calls on his step-back — and to be clear, most of the time he executes the devastating move within the rules — have helped supercharge Harden’s season in a way that can irritate his nike nfl jerseys china

“Guys can say he gets away with travels on the step-back or he flings his body into people to get fouls, but honestly, a lot of us get away with stuff like that,” said one All-Star who wished to remain anonymous because he didn’t want to court controversy.

“Just speaking for myself, and I don’t know how others feel, but what he does isn’t always team basketball. If you look at how Giannis plays, that’s more the way I was raised in the game. Just my opinion,” he said.1

Based on admittedly unscientific conversations, there are many players who agree. Earlier this season, Harden scored 304 consecutive points that were unassisted. That streak was tracked with awe by fans and media. For some players, though, it created eye-rolling because it represented the opposite of team nfl nike jerseys china

The Harden counterpoint is simple. With the Rockets badly banged up and missing co-creator Chris Paul for weeks, Harden felt he was doing what he needed to keep the Rockets afloat in the highly competitive Western Conference.

It wasn’t unlike the 2015 NBA Finals when the Cleveland Cavaliers were missing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and LeBron James was forced to dominate the ball and score. James came close to being the first Finals MVP from the losing team since Jerry West in 1969, but Andre Iguodala edged him out in the vote.

“We played the same exact way last year and we almost made it to the Finals,” Harden said, defending the Rockets’ style this season. “I don’t even care about the points, I’m just trying to win.

“We had a funky first half of the season. I just did whatever it took to keep our head above water. I was getting double-teams and triple-teams and I was doing whatever it took.”

Harden is getting plenty of credit for that by the media, which have the votes for the official award. He’s now at 31 consecutive games with 30 or more points, tying Chamberlain for the second-longest streak ever. He’s averaging 41.5 points during the run and the Rockets are 21-10.