I believe at times people forget how young the star players are in the NBA.
James Harden is 23 years old and just now starting to enjoy the spoils of being a celebrity. Part of the reason he is a celebrated is because of the team he was on.
Small market/large market in my opinion has no effect on your popularity if you are good. Kevin Durant is one of the most popular players in the NBA. Lebron was doing just fine popularity wise in Cleveland. The public attach themselves to winners.
Oklahoma City was winning with a dynamic and interesting cast of characters and Harden for lack of a better term was the “Rodman” of the group.
But, where being in a small market does have an effect is when it comes to getting paid. Three max players for a large market team is an issue, for a small market team is almost impossible.
What this came down to was OKC belief in the type of player that Harden would eventually become. Some players are destined to hover around greatness. Think of Lamar Odom for example, for years people thought he would break out into superstardom, but the reality is he was just a very good 6th man when surrounded with very good talent.
For Harden the market dictated he get paid a max contract. There are several NBA player who are far less talented than Harden who are getting paid max dollars, so it would be dumb for Harden to think he is worth anything less, but here is where it gets complicated.
Before I get to that here is how the final hours of the trade went down that led to Harden becoming the face of the Houston Rockets according to Pro Basketball Talk.
James Harden boarded an airplane Sunday morning, bound for Houston. He was “devastated,” said someone who knows the Bearded One. Harden and his family both….
But (Thunder GM) Sam Presti told him. Presti’s lips now are sealed, but sources from both parties said that the Thunder appealed one final time to Harden on Friday. Upped its offer to $53 million over four years but told Harden if he didn’t take it, he would be traded to Houston.
Presti didn’t use that as a warning. He used it as a plea. He desperately wanted to keep Harden, but this was the last best offer.
And the Thunder gave Harden an hour to accept.
You are 23 years old and you are given an hour to decide to stay where you want to be or cash out.
The money difference will end up being around $25 million (Rockets can offer an extra year and max dollars). I can only imagine that Harden had a lot of voices in his ear (agent, family, friends, Trina and etc).
What would you do?
I will never fault a player for taking more money. We have all seen athletes go bankrupt, so you can never have enough money. $25 million extra is a lot of money when one injury can end your career. Knowing that you have that money in the bank is something you simply can not ignore.
But you also can not ignore several examples of athletes who went for the money, but in the long-term to realize that money would have come if they would have just stayed put.
If I had a concern about Harden is he has never been THE MAN.
It is easy to be the Alvin Harper when you have Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith as teammates. Harden wasn’t playing with just good players he was playing with uber elite players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Harden had pouted in the past about nothing being given the opportunity to be on their level, but when he had an hour to make a decision to be THE MAN if the reports are true he wavered.
In the end the money was too much to ignore and he was shipped to Houston where he is now the unquestioned #1. How will he react?
When you think of James Harden do you think leader of men?
The money will be in the bank and that will give him peace of mind off the court, but will he truly have peace on it? Only time will time.