Shawn Kemp Compares Larry Bird to James Harden in Today’s NBA

Exploring Larry Bird's potential impact in modern basketball.

by Nouman Rasool
Shawn Kemp Compares Larry Bird to James Harden in Today’s NBA
© Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In a bold assertion that's stirring discussion among basketball aficionados, Seattle SuperSonics icon Shawn Kemp has confidently claimed that if Larry Bird were playing in today’s NBA, he would mirror the statistical output of James Harden at his peak.

During his 2021 appearance on the "Inside Buzz" show, Kemp highlighted the Boston Celtics legend’s potential in the modern era, suggesting that Bird would not only compete but dominate current players with his versatile skill set.

"Larry was tougher, bigger, stronger than someone like Luka Doncic. If Luka scores 27 points per game, Larry would easily put up 35," Kemp stated. His comparison extends beyond mere numbers; it’s a testament to Bird’s enduring legacy and the hypothetical impact he could have had in today's fast-paced, three-point-focused game.

Kemp Praises Bird

Further praising Bird's prowess, the six-time NBA All-Star looked back at the physicality and competitive type of basketball during the '80s and '90s, which he termed to be at a level much better than today's league.

According to Kemp, Bird would not just compete but potentially be a consistent MVP candidate. "People forget how athletic Larry was early in his career. He could slash, shoot, and he had the kind of all-around game that would thrive today, much like Magic Johnson did," Kemp added.

The comparison to James Harden is particularly striking considering Harden's recent history of offensive brilliance. Through his career, there was a 90-game streak with the Houston Rockets where Harden averaged just below 40 points per game, and that included games of 60-point triple-doubles and multiple 40-point triple-double outings within a single season.

While the better analogy may be that of Bird and Ljsona Doncic, in that sense, Kemp places Bird on a higher pedestal and suggests that dominance of the game that today can only be exceeded by the most prolific stars. Of course, this assessment does make one underlying assumption: that Bird's game would transfer reasonably well to the modern NBA, a league that has vastly changed in pace, number of possessions, and scoring efficiency.

James Harden