After Houston’s 129-112 victory against the Kings, James Harden has officially cemented himself as the NBA’s leader in steals. With that to his resume, The Beard has become the first player in league’s history that has lead the league in total points, total assists, and total steals.
He’s about to win the scoring title for the third straight year – something that hasn’t been done since Kevin Durant’s three year stretch with OKC. Harden led the league in total assists during the 15-16 NBA season when he accumulated 907 assists – 11.2 on a per-game basis. As the regular season wraps up, and Harden is officially crowned as the NBA’s steals leader, he will become the first player to top all three statistical categories – something that hasn’t been accomplished by any other NBA superstar.
Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson led the NBA in both points and steals but were never crowned as the league’s best playmakers. MJ has 10 scoring titles to his name and was the league’s leader in steals three times over his career. The Answer topped the NBA in steals from ’00 to ’03, and was the association’s leading scorer four times, with the last one being in the 04-05 NBA season when A.I. put up 30.7 points per game. But despite all these accolades, they’re missing the ‘led the league in assists’ title to their names.
That brings us to the next category of players – the ones who led the NBA in assists and steals but don’t have a scoring title to their names. The obvious one is John Stockton – the NBA’s all-time leader in both assists and steals. Stock led the league in assists for 9 straight seasons. The only year he put up double digits in assists, but it wasn’t league-leading was in the 96-97 NBA season. Mark Jackson’s 11.4 APG beat him to it. Despite being the NBA’s all-time record holder in steals, there was only one season when John was on top of that category, and it was during the 91-92 season when he averaged 3 SPG.
Chris Paul is in the same category as Stock. CP3 led the NBA in assists four times and was the league’s steals leader six times over his 15-year NBA career. Michael Ray Richardson is the third member of this group, with one assist title to his name, during the 79-80 NBA campaign. Sugar Ray was also the NBA’s leader in steals three times, but the lack of scoring kept him from joining James Harden, the same way it did with Stock and Paul.
The same thing can’t be said about LeBron James. In the 07-08 NBA season, James put up league-leading 30 PPG. Fast forward to this season, James is about to win his first assists title, as he’s dishing out 10.3 of those per contest. So what is missing? Leading the league in steals, where the closest LeBron has gotten was the third place in his second year with the Heat.
Russell Westbrook is in the same boat as The King. Russ led the league in scoring two times and was the NBA’s leader in assists for two straight seasons – from ’17 to ’19. In terms of leading the NBA in steals, Westbrook came even closer than LeBron. During the 14-15 campaign, The Brodie was second on the list with 2.1 SPG – only 0.2 shy of the league leader in Kawhi Leonard.
Tiny Archibald is another one, with his accomplishments happening before the merger. The Hall of Fame point guard led the ABA both in scoring and assists during his 72-73 run, averaging 34 PPG and 11.4 APG over the season. But again, he never led the league in steals.
As you see, many came close, but something like this was only accomplished by James Harden. It speaks volumes to how unique his NBA run has been so far, and it brings him the bragging rights of leaving MJ in the dust, at least in one paragraph of NBA’s record book. I’m sure James will take that.