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Pots And Pans

For No. 13 James Harden, his hot shooting streak is more than luck

But will his style of play help his Houston Rockets win in the playoffs?

James Harden is representing.

The Houston Rocket is representing the elite pro team athletes in the United States who have had the nerve to wear No. 13 during regular-season games. It’s a small club that includes Dan Marino in the NFL, Alex Rodriguez in his New York Yankees years and Pavel Datsyuk in the NHL.

Harden went into Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game with 31 consecutive games scoring 30 points or more. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record: 65 straight games. Chamberlain set that record in the 1961-62 season, when he averaged more than 50 points per game for the then-Philadelphia Warriors. Chamberlain also wore No. 13. The Hall of Fame center from the University of Kansas died in 1999 at age 63.

At 7 feet, 1 inch and more than 275 pounds in his prime, Wilt likened himself to Goliath, the heavily favored Philistine whom David took down by slingshot in the Bible. Wilt said nobody cheers for Goliath.

A lot of fans like Harden and cheer for him too. His jersey has been in the top 10 in sales. He is known for his flowing beard and his contract that will pay him more than $30 million this year.

More importantly, going into the All-Star Game, Harden leads the league in scoring and 3-point shots made. He’s also a leading candidate for regular-season MVP.

Still, Kobe Bryant, who played on five NBA title teams for the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 2016, leads those who say Harden’s regular-season game won’t translate into championship success this postseason. Harden has not played on an NBA championship team.

Harden agrees with Bryant, but he keeps shooting, as he must do for his team, which has a 33-24 record, to win in the regular season. He keeps driving to the basket. He keeps taking foul shots. The 29-year-old, 6-foot-5 guard from Arizona State keeps dishing out assists to his teammates too.

And, like Wilt before him, he keeps wearing No. 13. For all the money big-time pro sports teams generate, it’s also a sport of childlike joy and medieval superstitions among the players. Perhaps the latter is why relatively few elite players wear No. 13, a number many associate with bad luck.

Harden carries the Houston Rockets on his shoulders. During the regular season, he plays the way he must. Come playoff time, that might only give him a slingshot’s chance of bringing down the Golden State Warriors and the other Goliaths in the NBA’s Western Conference.

A graduate of Hampton University, Jeff Rivers worked for Ebony, HBO and three daily newspapers, winning multiple awards for his columns. Jeff and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children, a son Marc and a daughter Lauren.