James Harden Leaves Michael Jordan Behind On NBA All-Time List

Published 04/23/2024, 10:48 PM EDT

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While setting the tone in Game 1 of the 2023-24 Playoffs, James Harden made history by passing Dirk Nowitzki to clinch the 17th position on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Now, within just a few minutes in Game 2 against the Dallas Mavericks, Harden tops another legendary player – Michael Jordan. He entered the game with 1021 playoff assists by his name, falling short of just 1 to even MJ.

With that, it didn’t take the Beard much time to distribute the ball to open teammates. Harden now sits at number 12 in the All-Time Playoff Assist leaders list. The Clippers were quick to announce their veteran’s achievement, posting a fancy graphic of the same, and writing, “Add them up”. Michael Jordan averaged 5.7 assists with 179 post-season matchups, while Harden has averaged a little over 6 assists during the playoffs. This enabled the lefty star to surpass MJ in 18 fewer games. But, just like Jordan, Harden is no pass-first player. His case comes backed by his meteoric rise in finding open looks for his teammates.


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James Harden was the league’s assist leader last year (10.7 per game), marking his second such accolade. The feat failed to gain its deserved traction because of his controversial Philadelphia 76ers stint, which revolved more around his altered bond with the franchise and his pursuit to get traded. However, with the assist record last year, he also became the only player to have led the league thrice in scoring and twice in assists. His current role with the Los Angeles Clippers compliments his knack for the same.

He was acquired in November for his ability to glue the team’s offense around him and to score when the opportunity provides itself. A skillset that justified the 1685 fewer minutes it took Harden to overtake Jordan’s playoff record.


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There is more on the horizon for James Harden

Apart from topping Jordan and Dirk, Harden can top several other legends if he continues to maintain his strides. While some depend solely on his performances, others weigh in on the Clippers’ validity for the playoffs.

For example, Harden’s next climb will now come through passing Kobe Bryant and Scottie Pippen, who have 1040 and 1048 assists on the list, respectively; a number he can top within the current series against the Dallas Mavericks itself. On the other hand, if he manages to post numbers similar to his season-long average of 18 points per game, Harden could surpass Magic Johnson on the All-Time Playoffs Scoring list for the 16th spot. It is a long shot for sure, but above Magic sits Hakeem Olajuwon at 3755, whose spot could also be breached.


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Additionally, if the Clippers manage to advance to the NBA Finals, Harden could also enter the top 10 within the Assists realm, surpassing Larry Bird’s 1062 assists, sitting at #8 under Rajon Rondo. On the scoring front, Harden could enter the top 15, and possibly surpass Larry Bird (3897 points) again for the 13th spot on the coveted list.

Which milestone do you think James Harden will reach first? Let us know in the comments below.


Written by:

Saahil Dhillan


One take at a time

Saahil Dhillan is an NBA Writer at EssentiallySports who discovered his basketball passion through the dynamic between Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Years later, Kobe Bryant reignited his love, transforming him into an extensive contributor who savors the matches, covers games live, analyzes post-game pressers, and reports on injuries. With his stories, he aims at making readers feel the intense drama unfolding on the court every day.
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Edited by:

Daniel D'Cruz