OKC Thunder said goodbye to Harden at the perfect time

James Harden, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
James Harden, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
James Harden and Kevin Durant, both of the OKC Thunder, play basketball with kids at Shanghai Stadium. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images) /

Early years with the OKC Thunder:

In 2009 OKC relished the opportunity to see Harden blossom from a raw Arizona State project to arguably one of the game’s biggest stars. It started slow for him, but I can remember being in school at Texas Tech and having my “Fear The Beard” T-Shirt on, ready to watch James come off the bench to ignite Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was amazing.

His confidence began to grow and grow with each game, and although Harden was only around for three years, it felt like a lifetime. He was beloved — just a goofy dude with a relaxed, laid-back demeanor. There weren’t many public instances where his partying was “carte blanche,” and he had to worry about people dissecting and materializing his every waking moment.

I distinctly remember a night where I was in Downtown OKC, and someone in the group I was with said something to the effect of, “OMG Harden is over at the SKKY BAR, and he is dancing on everybody.” I did not physically go to SKKY BAR to watch Harden hit ‘The Dougie’ on the majority of OKC’s single population. Still, I can remember being excessively intrigued, for whatever reason.

Every time a major star from OKC has been traded or made a move, I always can pinpoint where I was and what I was doing that day, and I can remember I had got home from class and just grabbed the newest NBA2K a few days prior because I was so excited to play with the Thunder.

About 30 minutes later, James was traded to Houston for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, with a first-round draft pick that became Steven Adams. It was maddening and confusing, but hindsight is such a funny thing because now I understand that this is where the downfall of Harden began.

Harden and Presti seemed to have fallen out over 5 million dollars when Harden was supposed to sign an extension. Still, I genuinely believe something happened behind closed doors that we were never made aware of, and the reason I say that is because that man is a generational talent. If Presti didn’t want to keep him over that reason alone, that is telling.

If we look at the beginning of Rodman’s career, it is a stark comparison to Harden because Rodman saw success early with Detroit. When Michael Jordan handpicks you to become an enforcer on a team, I think that says it all. Rodman understood sacrifice. There was never a situation where anyone worried about Dennis being ready to play, even with his many faults.

The same can be said for The Beard, showing up for the start of the 2020 season out of shape. In his first game this season, James proceeded to put up a cool 44 points along with a game-high 17 assists as The Rockets lost to the Portland Trailblazers in Overtime at a fan-less Moda Center.

That honestly seems like a proverbial middle finger from Harden as if he is telling us to “shut up and watch” as he torches opposing teams while simultaneously putting the entire NBA on notice.