If Game 1 is an indicator, Rockets – Thunder won’t be as close as everyone predicted. With Westbrook out, the Rockets seemed vulnerable. But yet again, James Harden proved he is a one-man offense. Harden was so impressive that Charles Barkley made one of the hottest takes in his life.
“I’ve said it before. James Harden is the best 1-on-1 player I’ve ever seen in my life.”Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA
After he realized what Charles said, Shaq started yelling at him, “Don’t say in your life. I’m helping you out!! Stop it!!!” The reason was apparent. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant immediately came to mind. Barkley knew what Shaq and Kenny are ready to say to him, and Sir Charles had a response ready.
“As great as Michael and Kobe were, and they’re better players, they weren’t the three-point shooters that James is.”Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA
Kenny then proceeded to use the same point we hear over and over again every time there’s a cross-generational comparison, and that makes these discussions pointless most of the time. According to Jet, (and Shaq agreeing in the background), Kobe and MJ didn’t have the three-point shot Harden has because they didn’t need to. If they played in today’s NBA, according to Kenny, Bryant and Jordan would be as good as Harden is behind the three-point line.
I beg to differ and side with Barkley. First of all, they don’t know that. As much as we glorify Kobe and Jordan, they weren’t perfect players. Would they be better three-point shooters? Probably. But as good as James Harden and his step-back three is? That’s a very high bar.
Secondly, the “they would’ve if they had to” implies it was only a matter of choice not to be deadly from the three. All we are told about Kobe and Jordan is that they wanted to be the best at everything; find and exploit every edge they could. That’s where the confidence they could’ve been better shooters if they wanted to comes from. You’re telling me Kobe learned French to trash-talk Tony Parker, but didn’t work on his long-range shooting? Every practice with MJ was more intense than most games, but he didn’t push himself to be more efficient from three?
Don’t get me wrong; I do not agree with Barkley on this one. Discussions like these are mostly pointless because basketball is a team sport, and it’s impossible to adjust for the differences in eras. But I am confident that the point Kenny and Shaq tried to make is contradictory within itself. Still entertaining as hell.