James Harden (USA)
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The Beard goes for career-high 50

HOUSTON (NBA) - James Harden has been delivering compelling evidence all season long that he is the best player in the NBA and maybe the world.

There is stiff competition for that honor but the 25-year-old Harden is easily one of the front-runners.

On Wednesday night, he had a career-high 50 points for Houston in a 118-108 triumph over Denver, the first time a player scored that many in a Rockets uniform since 1996 when Hakeem Olajuwon dropped 51 on the Boston Celtics.

Harden didn't just excite the fans.

He mesmerized them.

When the game against the Nuggets was over, all that Harden cared about were the numbers on the scoreboard, the ones showing the final result.

Houston, with that victory, improved their record in the Western Conference to 46 wins and just 22 defeats.

They are in third place, but only a game behind second-top Memphis.

Among those watching Harden dazzle were former Rockets Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

When Olajuwon played for the Rockets, the team won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.

'The Dream', Drexler ('95 champion) and other players off those championship-winning teams were recognized during a half-time ceremony on Wednesday.

"That's a special group right there," Harden said.

"We're trying to build something special like they did."

To play a game in front of them was definitely an honor - Harden

At the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Harden was among the USA's best players.

He was perhaps unlucky not to make the all-tournament team.

No one was better in the United States' Semi-Final triumph over Lithuania, that's for sure.

Harden had 16 points in that victory and scored most when the USA took control of the game.

He finished the World Cup averaging 14.2 points per game and shooting 59.2 percent (29 of 49) inside the arc, 41.4 percent (12 of 29) beyond it.

Bearing in mind he only averaged 22mpg at Spain 2014, Harden's scoring would have been much higher had he not shared court time with some of the USA's other superstars.

All that mattered to him after the World Cup was that he won the tournament and lifted the Naismith Trophy following the USA's title triumph over Serbia.

Harden will no doubt be with the USA next year when, for the second time, he'll play for his country at Olympic Games.