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James Harden has done just about everything an NBA player can do. He's won an MVP, a Sixth Man of the Year award, three scoring titles and two assist titles. He's an Olympic gold medalist, a member of the NBA's 75th anniversary team and the sixth highest-paid player in NBA history. The one thing Harden hasn't done in the NBA? Win the big one.

So when he was asked how he wants to be remembered as an NBA player, that made his response a tad surprising. "That I was a winner, that I was a teacher," Harden said in a recent interview, according to BasketNews, when asked about his legacy. "That I had a different love for the game. I mean like, put the money aside, I really enjoy and love the game of basketball and playing it. Whether it's being with the kids here or when I travel (to) other places in Europe, when I go to China, I just want people to understand how much I really love and enjoy the game of basketball."

Harden's love of the game can't really be questioned. You don't succeed at the level that he has without that. Hearing him say the words "put the money aside" is a tougher sell considering all of the drama that followed Philadelphia's decision not to give him a hefty contract extension last offseason, but in fairness to Harden, he did accept less than the max in 2022 to help the 76ers sign PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr.

But remembering Harden as a winner? It's hard to imagine that will be the first thing to come to anyone's mind when looking back on his historic career. This isn't to suggest that a player necessarily needs to win a championship to be remembered as a winner. Nobody would question, say, Chris Paul or Charles Barkley as winners.

But time and time again, Harden has disappeared in the biggest moments of the postseason. Here's an incomplete list of postseason disasters he was involved in:

  • Harden shot just 37.5% from the floor in his lone trip to the NBA Finals as a member of the 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder.
  • Harden sat on the bench during Houston's infamous Game 6 comeback against the Clippers in the 2015 playoffs as teammates Josh Smith and Corey Brewer went on the hot streak to end all hot streaks. He shot 5-of-20 from the floor in that game.
  • Harden shot 2-of-11 from the floor in a season-ending 2017 second-round loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were playing without star wing Kawhi Leonard.
  • Harden presided over Houston's 0-for-27 3-point shooting stretch in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference finals.
  • Harden again shot 2-of-11 from the floor in a critical Game 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 Orlando bubble.
  • Harden scored just 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting in Philadelphia's season-ending Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat in 2022. Afterward, Harden claimed that "the ball just didn't get back to me." As a reminder, he was Philadelphia's primary ball-handler.
  • Harden scored only nine points in a 3-of-11 shooting performance as the 76ers lost Game 7 of their second-round series against the Boston Celtics in 2023.

A few poor performances in big moments can be excused. Seven collapses like this practically have to define a player's career unless he manages to turn things around and win it all. Harden's recent machinations haven't done him many favors there. He forced his way off of a Nets team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving that eventually would have competed for the 2022 title when New York lifted the vaccine mandate that was keeping Irving off of the floor. The Clippers team he is now playing for may well lose Paul George, and to the 76ers team he left to get there as an extra twist of the knife.

Harden is a Hall of Famer. He's a basketball legend that ranks among the greatest isolation scorers in NBA history. But a winner? Well, with that resume, that's going to be a tough sell.