At present, James Harden is one of the best players in the world. In fact, "The Beard" cemented his name on the list of the greatest players to ever do it when he made the NBA 75 Team. Time flies by, indeed, as ten years ago, Harden wasn't the superstar he is today. Instead, Harden was the Oklahoma City Thunder's firepower off-the-bench, given the team had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the front.
Nevertheless, the reduced role did not stop Harden from making his mark on the league, having helped OKC reach the 2012 NBA Finals by contributing 16.8 points per outing. So when he got traded to the Houston Rockets in the summer, former Thunder forward Nick Collison and the rest of the squad were shocked.
Just getting started
In a farewell piece he wrote for ESPN before he retired in 2018, Collison tried to put into words how they reacted to Harden's trade. According to Collison, it was "a gut punch," so to speak, considering their young and hungry Thunder team was serious contenders at the time.
"I still remember going to see James [Harden] at his house the night he was traded. It was a gut punch," Collison said. "We just sat there together in shock, we couldn't believe it happened. We talked about how it went down, about negotiations and stuff, but we just couldn't believe it. I mean, we'd just gone to the Finals."
It didn't end with Harden
Collison went on and hinted that the Harden trade in the summer of 2012 wasn't the final straw that broke the camel's back in the series of wild events that took place during his entire stint with OKC. However, he chose to reserve the rest of his revelations for the Thunder's ESPN: 30 for 30 docuseries.
"There have been a few other gut punches, but I won't dwell on them here," he added. "The eventual 30 for 30 will be really good. It'll probably have to be a four-part mini-series."
Undoubtedly, Thunder's 30 for 30 is stacked with an array of backstories. But we don't need to watch it to reckon that Harden's trade to the Rockets changed the future of that championship-caliber OKC team.
Taking a short trip down memory lane, the Durant-Westbrook-led Thunder continued to dominate the west but never made it to the Finals again. And everything collapsed when KD decided to join the Golden State Warriors. On the other hand, Harden helped the Rockets become consistent playoff contenders and left Houston as a legend.