Even though he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden’s career as a professional basketball player has exceeded expectations.
It’s not often that you’ll find a Sixth Man of the Year who’ll go on to become a perennial All-Star and league MVP—but that’s the unique and inspiring story of ‘The Beard.’ He’s solidified himself as the second-best player in Houston Rockets’ franchise history, only behind Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon.
That said, when Harden requested a trade from Houston– where he had played for the last eight seasons– in December, it raised plenty of eyebrows. By the time Harden’s trade request was actually granted, questions were raised about the three-time scoring champion himself.
Why was he out at parties when the Rockets wanted him at the facility? Why did he have such a blatant disregard for his new head coach and teammates’ desires?
According to Harden, who appeared on ESPN’s ‘The Jump’ with Rachel Nichols, he “wasn’t trying to be disrespectful.”
“The front office knew where I stood and what I wanted. I apologize for how it went down but I guess I had to do what I had to do to in order to get where it wanted to go.”
“Credit to Houston. They didn’t necessarily have to trade me to Brooklyn; they could have traded me anywhere. But those are some standup guys over there. It ended up the right way, I just didn’t like that month or two played out.”
Considering what Harden meant to Houston and the Rockets franchise, it really is regrettable that there wasn’t a smoother exit for Harden or a happier ending altogether. Had he not run into the dynastic Golden State Warriors in four out of his last six playoff appearances (and the reigning NBA champions in 2020), there’s a great chance that Harden would have led the Rockets to their first Finals appearance since 1995.