James Harden made NBA history with a New Year’s Eve show for the ages.
The Rockets’ All-Star guard tallied a career-high 53 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists in a 129-122 home victory over the Knicks on Saturday, becoming the first player in league history to finish with a 50P/15R/15A stat line.
Harden shot 14-26 from the field, 9-16 from deep and 16-18 from the foul line in 42 minutes of action. He eclipsed his previous career high of 51 points, set in an April 1, 2015, win over the Kings. Harden also tied his career high for assists and fell one shy of his career high for rebounds.
"It feels good," Harden told reporters. "But credit my teammates for knocking down shots and creating that opportunity and space for me to score and to be who I am. ... I look at [the numbers] and it's unbelievable. The season so far has been unbelievable."
Remarkably, Harden joins Russell Westbrook as the only two players with 50-point triple-doubles in the last 41 years. The two former Oklahoma City teammates are widely viewed as the top two 2017 MVP frontrunners, with Harden nominating himself as the early favorite for the award in an interview with SI.com earlier this month. Westbrook posted 51 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in an overtime win over the Suns on Oct. 28.
Harden’s career night marked the fourth time he has scored at least 50 points in a game, which is tied with Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant for third-most among active players. Only LeBron James (10) and Stephen Curry (5) have more 50-point games among active players.
The 2016-17 season has produced a rash of 50-point games, including Isaiah Thomas’s 52-point outburst against the Heat on Friday. All told, Harden is the seventh different player this season to score 50 or more points, joining Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Thomas. The NBA’s all-time record for most players with a 50-point game is eight, set in 1989-90.
Houston improved to 26-9. New York fell to 16-17.