When the Oklahoma City Thunder made the Finals already in 2012 with their young core, everybody expected them to dominate the NBA for the next decade. But as faith would have it, the trio of Durant, Westbrook, and Harden would break up right after it, with James getting traded to Houston in search of more money and a bigger role. But the 2012 Olympics experience for the young Thunder with other NBA stars played a huge part in the fallout.
Genius plotting from the veterans
The 2012 USA Olympic team is maybe even the most extraordinary collection of talent on one basketball team since the original 1992 "Dream Team." LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, CP3, D-Will, Igoudala, and Tyson Chandler were in their prime, a veteran Kobe, and the young guns like Westbrook, Harden, Love, and AD stormed the tournament on their way to the gold medal.
It was a true mix of various generations of stars, and it made these guys lifelong friends. The young stars would pick the brains of the veterans and learn immaculate knowledge, but at the same time, the old guys would get insight into how the youngsters prepare and think.
But guys like LeBron, Carmelo, and Kobe would also use this time to do some futuristic thinking by ensuring they weaken their new competition in the NBA. Kendrick Perkins, who was the center and enforcer of those Thunder teams, recently revealed how the Olympic experience played a huge part in the break-up and Harden's departure:
"What happened was that Sam Presti gave him till 12 o clock. I remember it was a Wednesday, and he was like 'you have till 12 to sign this'. (OKC offered) $64 million, and James was like 'I want the max'. What happened was, when James, KD, and Russ went to the Olympics and won that Gold Medal, everybody like LeBron, D-Wade, Carmelo, was gassing up James 'you need your own team'. They weren't gassing him, they were right, he did need his own team. But at the same time, they're trying to break the Oklahoma City Thunder up so they could win more titles."
Kendrick Perkins, The Old Man and The Three
We have heard before about Kobe Bryant taking Russell Westbrook under his wing and filling his head with the notion he should be the #1 option in OKC despite playing with Kevin Durant. But this is the first time hearing LeBron and Carmelo were always on the same page with James Harden.
James saw firsthand a few months back this young superteam will be a force to reckon with, and getting Harden out of town was beneficial for their teams. Sure, the Thunder bringing out the checkbooks and going into the luxury tax should have been a no-brainer, and the voices in Harden's head from such a prestigious player only closed the case.
Harden would become a Houston Rocket and one of the best scorers in NBA history after the trade, proving he was deserving of his team, but if the James stayed with Russ and Kevin in Oklahoma, it could have become a dynasty instead of one of the best teams never to win a ring.