James Harden, a talented National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player who was awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player Award and currently plays for the Houston Rockets, is well-known for both his beard and exceptional skills, and increasingly, his ability to draw fouls. Harden played college basketball at Arizona State, and after that, he was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, the same year that he was named Pac-10 Player of the Year.
While Harden has attracted plenty of attention by carrying the Rockets to the Western Conference semifinals, he has also created significant controversy regarding the number of fouls he’s drawn, particularly on three-point shots. When Harden shoots his three-pointers, he jumps forward, making it seem as though his defender got in his way. However, this is just a tactic basketball players use with hopes to get a foul called on the opposing team. According to SportsCenter, during the regular season Harden drew fouls while shooting three-pointers 61 times more than any other player in the league. This has received a lot of attention recently because of the Zaza rule.
The Zaza rule is the unofficial name for a NBA rule stating that a defensive player cannot advance towards a shooter with the intention to prevent a shot or pass.
This rule was created after NBA player Zaza Pachulia moved his foot under Kawhi Leonard’s while Leonard was taking a three-point shot. This happened during a game on May 14, 2017. The injury took Leonard off the court for the rest of the playoffs. There was a lot of backlash against Pachulia, and referees were instructed to look at these situations more carefully for the safety of the players.
Harden has been using this rule to his advantage. Each time he’s fouled, he gets free throw shots, and if there isn’t a call, he could still make the three-pointer. For him, it’s a win-win situation. However, it is an incredibly difficult, challenging, and frustrating thing to defend against. Draymond Green, a Golden State Warrior, said in a post-game interview, “I’ve been fouled by James Harden on a ‘James’ three-pointer,” referring to the arguably unfair way that Harden shoots. He also mentioned how Harden lands three feet from where he started.
Some say that what Harden is doing is acceptable, there is no specific rule forbidding it. Nevertheless, it is not fair to the other players and teams who are trying to rightfully win a game. Despite this controversy, in the following games of the playoffs, the referees will have to make some difficult decisions that could cost any NBA team their chance to win the league.