March 28, 2013 BY John Kim
James Harden – Houston Rockets
Current affiliation: Nike
The case for: His trade from OKC to Houston allowed the Arizona State alumni to run his own show. While he played the role of “third option” rather well and proved to be a valuable piece to the Thunder’s run to the Finals, his 2012-2013 campaign has confirmed him to be a superstar for years to come – with some deeming Harden a Top 5 player in the league. More importantly, James Harden plays the same position as Kobe Bryant, who Nike will certainly look to replace once he retires a few years down the line. Shooting guards have always been the prize fighters in the signature-shoe division, and at that position, James Harden seems like the lone wolf.
The case against: It might take him another season of top-level performance for him to shed that lingering reputation of being the third wheel in OKC, and he might be better categorized as an Amare Stoudemire/Paul Pierce type of player – one that doesn’t officially have a signature shoe, but has a particular model that we’ve generally come to accept as his (Amare with the Air Max Sweep Thru, Josh Smith adiZero Ghost, etc.). Harden has the star skills – but does have the star power?