Oklahoma City's favorite bearded basketball player is not only the talk of town, but he is also making team history.
Harden was named the NBA's 2011-12 Sixth Man of the Year, the first such award in Thunder team history. He was nearly a unanimous choice for the award, receiving 584 overall points including 115 of the possible 119 first place votes.
The team held a press conference Thursday afternoon with the formal announcement of his award. Most of the Thunder team and coaches were present for the presentation of the Sixth man Trophy.
This season Harden paced the league's bench players with a career-high 16.8 points per game this season along with 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and one steal in an average of 31.4 minutes of play per contest.
"I tried every single day to get better and this organization is what has made me into the player I am today," said Harden. "I think at the end of last year is when I really got it--at the trade deadline, my role became bigger on this team and I had to make sure that every single game I was more focused and doing my role at its best."
"I think James is being a little hard on himself, he did get it as a rookie," said OKC Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks with a smile. "To come in as a rookie the year before we won 23 games, the year we drafted him we won 50 games and he played big minutes and a lot of times played big fourth quarter minutes and averaged 10 points per game. He has really improved at every area of the game that we have thrown at him."
"That's one of the hardest things to do, to have that consistent work ethic every single day because some days you are tired and don't feel like doing anything but that's something I've tried to restore and go at every single day," added Harden.
The Arizona State product helped Oklahoma City to the team's second-straight Northwest Division Title and a 47-19 regular season record.
He becomes the 26th Sixth Man of the Year since the award began in 1982-83.
Through the Thunder's first four post season games, Harden has averaged 18.3 points on 50 percent shooting and 32.3 minutes per game. He tallied a playoff career-high of 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field and 75 percent from behind the three point line in OKC's 103-97 game four win over Dallas to sweep the opening round series.
Harden also set a new career-high total of 40 points in the Thunder's April 18 road game victory over Phoenix. That night he shot 12-of17 from the field, 5-of-8 from 3-point range and also had seven rebounds and four steals.
Philadelphia's Lou Williams finished second in the voting with three first place votes and 231 overall points while Dallas' Jason Terry rounded out the top three with 81 points.
Last season, Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom received the Sixth Man award.
The Thunder currently await their second round playoffs opponent. The winner of the Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers first round series will advance to take on the Thunder.
Earlier in the day, Harden announced the news on his personal Twitter account Thursday saying, "Thanks everyone!! I appreciate all the love! 6th Man of the Year."
Entering play on Thursday, Los Angeles leads the series 3-2. If LA wins game six, they will play Oklahoma City Saturday, May 12 at 8:30 p.m. If the series goes seven games, the winner and the Thunder will likely play on Monday.