James Harden’s Secret Talent Is Slowing Down

The Houston Rockets’ star is ordinary by many physical metrics. But his deceleration is superhuman—and that explains how he dominates the NBA

Harden has a hidden advantage: deceleration. His braking system is the best in sports. Harden is the fastest at slowing down.

.. But the frontrunner to win the NBA’s most valuable player award is Harden. He’s averaging 28.9 points per game while also somehow leading the league with 11.4 assists per game.

.. “I know what I’m great at and what I’m not great at—and I use it to my advantage.”

That’s apparent in the way he plays. Harden relies on the stepback jumper more than anyone in the NBA, and his ability to decelerate is what frees him for the split-second he requires to get a shot off. That’s why it’s basically unstoppable.

.. There are people around the sport, in fact, who believe that changing speeds is the single most important characteristic in the game today. “You look at the best players in the NBA, and they can go full speed with a dribble and all of a sudden—stop,” said Rockets forward Ryan Anderson. “It’s impossible to guard.”