James Harden is on the verge of his greatest individual triumph, but says the team that drafted him into the NBA remains on his mind.
— Devin Gordon (@DevinGordonX) April 12, 2018
The Beard has of course moved on, ready to collect his first MVP award and attempting to lead the Houston Rockets to an NBA title.
Harden went third in the draft to Oklahoma City, joining Westbrook and Kevin Durant to complete the most beloved nucleus of young NBA talent since Shaq and Penny.
But like Shaq and Penny in Orlando, the Thunder came up short in their one trip to the Finals and got too expensive before they could get back there. In 2012, Oklahoma City shocked the league by trading Harden to Houston, at once ending the Thunder trio and immortalizing it. By this summer, all three should have MVP awards; two of them wouldn’t if the Thunder had stayed together.
And yet Harden says he still thinks about that team every day. “It was the perfect puzzle,” he tells me, reliving the end for the thousandth time. “How do you give that up? How do you let that go?”