The current situation the Houston Rockets are experiencing with James Harden is somewhat similar to the one of Hakeem Olajuwon during his time with the Rockets in the early ’90s. After a few unsuccessful playoff and conference finals appearances, in his early 30’s, Hakeem was interested in leaving the Rockets and go and play for the Supersonics. They were the frontrunners to acquire him and create a superteam alongside him, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, who were entering their prime years. Imagine how scary this team would be if that actually happened.
Obviously, that deal didn’t come through, and Hakeem went on to win two consecutive NBA championships with the Rockets. However, during that time, Hakeem and Charlies Thomas, Rockets owner, had several arguments in which Hakeem called him a ‘coward,’ implying the entire franchise is not run in the right way. Things were so bad they suspended him for three games. During that time, Hakeem learned a valuable lesson on making it work with a franchise in the long run.
“It takes two to make it work. It’s like marriage. If two people want the same thing, it will happen. Both will compromise and sacrifice for the sake of making it happen.”Hakeem Olajuwon, via The Seattle Times
Despite the fact he was displeased with the Rockets, it never occurred to Hakeem to sit out games and not fulfill what he was paid to do because of respect for his fans and himself. Hakeem never wanted his business side of things to affect his performance on the court, and this is the mantra he lived by throughout his entire career.
“I was obligated. “I was under contract. You have to fulfill the contract. That’s part of basic beliefs. When you go out on the floor, you aren’t just representing the Rockets. You’re representing yourself, your country, your continent. You’re representing a lot of other people. If you can’t do your best, don’t even talk. You take care of business on the outside. But on the floor, that’s where you come to play.”Hakeem Olajuwon, via The Seattle Times
During that entire rollercoaster of emotions and a relationship Hakeem had with the Rockets, from the day he openly requested a trade to winning two consecutive championships after that, he learned a valuable lesson.
“You know what you want, and you try to get there. “You do all the necessary things, where before you might have overlooked or taken for granted what is so important. Before you looked at the big things, and the little things you didn’t worry about. But it is the opposite. You take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves.”Hakeem Olajuwon, via The Seattle Times
No matter what type of solution finally comes out of the situation between Harden and the Rockets, it would be great to see him play and compete as hard as he can. Similarly to Hakeem, it is important to have pride and an overview of the grand scheme of things and take care of business on the basketball floor. Most importantly, millions of fans worldwide would love to see him perform and showcase why he is a top five player in the league.