To the shock of many, the Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden was left off this year’s NBA All-Star team, snapping his streak of 10 consecutive appearances in the league’s annual showcase.

Although he has taken a backseat to perennial NBA Most Valuable Player candidate Joel Embiid since Philadelphia acquired him prior to the 2022 trade deadline almost a year ago, he remains a potent offensive weapon and deserves a spot on this year’s All-Star team.

Harden is currently averaging 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 11.0 assists, and 1.2 steals per game this season and has been a major catalyst in the Sixers’ 33-17 win-loss record that has them only 2.5 games out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The exclusion of Harden from the All-Star roster may have more to do with the poor sentiment surrounding him stemming from his days with the Houston Rockets. Harden, who was crowned the 2018 NBA MVP, was a ball dominant force with the Rockets and averaged over 30 points per game in three consecutive seasons. However, his affinity for foul-fishing, which critics decried as “ruining the game”, eventually turned him into an unpopular figure.

The poor showings in recent postseasons, which could be partially attributed to his nagging hamstring injury, have not done him any favors either.

What has made things even worse for Harden are his frequent–and well-documented–visits to adult entertainment venues and a tendency to come into training camp out of shape. His eventual trade demands while he was with the Rockets and Brooklyn Nets further complicated his image and seems to have finally caught up with him.


Nonetheless, Harden’s off-court reputation should not take away from his on-court achievements. He currently leads the league in assists per game and has four triple doubles this season. Though he may not be the Harden of old who had five 50-point triple doubles over a two-and-a-half-year stretch, his current statistics would put him at the top of the All-Star discussion if he was any other player.

A legitimate case can be made that Harden is more deserving of a spot this year over recently named All-Star reserves DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls and maybe even the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday.

DeRozan’s scoring numbers so far have dipped from last year where he was considered an MVP candidate over the first half of the season. While his per-game averages of 26 points, 4.8 rebounds, five assists, and a steal are still quite remarkable, the poor showing of the Bulls this season should have been a demerit for his All-Star case.

Chicago has struggled to carryover the magic of last year’s campaign and they are currently 10th in the East with a sub-.500 24-27 win-loss record.

Meanwhile, Holiday’s Bucks are only a half game ahead of Philadelphia in the East standings which minimizes any discernible advantage that their strong record affords him. Holiday’s averages of 19.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.3 steals pale in comparison to Harden’s.

The impact of Holiday’s top notch defense is not always picked up by statistics though which makes the debate on choosing between him and Harden a bit more inconclusive.

Harden could still end up making the team as an injury replacement, particularly because of his former Brooklyn Nets teammate Kevin Durant who remains sidelined with a sprained MCL. He deserves a spot on the All-Star team, but this “snub” should also serve as a reminder that perception matters and overlooking this reality of life does indeed have its consequences.