Bill Simmons Angers NBA Twitter With James Harden-Luca Doncic Comparison
Bill Simmons angered NBA Twitter this week when he chose to bash James Harden while praising Luka Doncic.
During his most recent podcast with Ryen Russillo, Simmons made the argument that Doncic was the Larry Bird of the modern NBA.
While that in itself is not a particularly illuminating take given that Doncic and Bird have little in common aside from pigment, what really ticked NBA Twitter off was Simmons opting to bash Harden while making his argument.
“The thing with Luka is the assists aren’t, like, cheap assists,” The Ringer boss said.
“He has the typical James Harden type of assist, where he brings the second guy over and hits the guy in the corner, the cross-court, all the stuff he’s doing to get guys open threes. But he’s also creating these cutter passes.
“Guys learn how to play with him and they’re more active, more engaged.”
— Jackson Gatlin (@JTGatlin) August 10, 2020
Simmons’ comments prompted immediate mocking on social media.
— Jasmine (@JasmineLWatkins) August 10, 2020
— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) August 10, 2020
Bill Simmons Praising Luka Doncic Is Understandable
Simmons being a fan of Doncic is not in itself shocking. The 21-year-old is an excellent player, and he is coming off a particularly impressive showing against the Milwaukee Bucks.
This past Saturday, he recorded 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds in a 136-132 victory over Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. Considering the Bucks are arguably the third-best team in the NBA right now, Doncic’s efforts against them were especially fun to watch.
On the season, Doncic is averaging 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists per outing. There is a very easy case to be made for him being a top five-to-seven finisher in MVP voting.
The young Slovenian star is objectively special.
Bill Simmons’ Mistake Was Bashing James Harden
What really sparked the ire of NBA Twitter was not Simmons praising Doncic. That was justifiable and understandable. It was his decision to bash Harden, who has been one of the league’s premiere starting talents for the past eight years.
It is no secret that Harden’s playing style has won him some critics, but his results and stats are undeniable. He is a perennial top-two NBA MVP voting finisher for a reason.
Everything that Doncic can do, Harden can do as well. In time it may prove out that Doncic is superior to Harden, but that certainly is not the case in any capacity yet.
The Racial Component
Any time a professional entity is mostly comprised of one race and a star of a different race emerges, the subject of how that plays into it is unavoidable. Whether you are talking about Eminem’s place in rap or Tiger Woods’ legacy in golf, the racial component cannot be avoided.
As such, there are two racial issues at play here.
The first is how Doncic’s race factors into fans’ perception of him – on both sides.
As illustrated by Shannon Sharpe, the opinions here are anything but unanimous.
.@ShannonSharpe on Luka Doncic’s performance vs the Bucks:
“He’s special, he can do it all. Skip, he’s been a professional for 6 years, this is not anything new to him. It’s just a matter of time, he’s going to win the MVP, he’s that good, he’s the real deal.” pic.twitter.com/zFu4c2C67P
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) August 10, 2020
The second is how race shapes perceptions of Harden – and in this case how Simmons views him.
The Bill Simmons Podcast everytime James Harden has a good game pic.twitter.com/hbemMnuM35
— LebronJamesHarden™ (@LBJamesHarden) August 10, 2020
Bill Simmons is a true blue (green) Celtics fan, in that he’s a closet racist. https://t.co/4wuiGMehhQ
— Andre Brock (@andreibrock) August 10, 2020
One way or another, this conversation as it pertains to both Doncic and Harden will persist. Both players are too good for it not to.
At the moment, Simmons is the one catching heat for it, but inevitably it will happen again with someone else as well.