Examining the national media’s bias towards the Houston Rockets

A view of t-shirts for fans prior to Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
A view of t-shirts for fans prior to Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

If the NBA had a tournament-style contest for their version of America’s team, the Houston Rockets would not make it past the first round. There are constant complaints by the national media ranging from General Manager Daryl Morey’s analytical approach, James Harden “cheating the game” and Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, which all result in negative press for the Rockets.

At first blush, it seems like this is just another occasion in which the Houston Rockets‘ fanbase is pouting. Many basketball followers would have the take that all high-profile teams receive some level of criticism and the Rockets aren’t the exception. The problem is there are many examples of how this is more than just Rocket fans seeing it through red-colored glasses. There are examples from nationally ran sites where it’s almost like they lather in the Rockets misery. Many of these examples include preseason opinions which don’t James Harden at the frontrunner of the MVP predictions. In this article, we will discuss why the Rockets are public enemy number one in the eyes of the national media.

The media’s disdain for the Rockets

The national media should be relied upon to report facts as opposed to showing a bias against a specific team or player, which they’ve certainly done to undermine the greatness of Harden. Over the last few years we’ve seen many examples of how many in the national media enjoy watching the Rockets lose, especially a nationally televised game. The most recent example of this was the Rockets’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.


Of course, this could be seen as just a joke, but the issue here is the fact that there is very little content beyond the joke. The fact of the matter is that the Rockets have already defeated the Golden State Warriors this season but you wouldn’t know that based on this tweet. The Rockets could easily destroy the Warriors in the next matchup and it probably wouldn’t even make it on SportsCenter or any of the morning shows such as First Take or Get Up.

ESPN is seen by millions on a daily basis, including many of which who solely rely on outlets such as the four-letter network and Bleacher Report for all of their basketball content so this biased reporting prevents many from being totally aware of what happens in the NBA on a daily basis. Not only that, when jokes are made such as the one following the Rockets’ loss to the Warriors, it creates a narrative which is solely based on one game and totally disregards the outcome of the first game. Here is yet another example of a false narrative being created out of thin air.

.@RealJayWilliams is sensing some serious trust issues between James Harden and Russell Westbrook. And it's showing on the court. pic.twitter.com/kiTcAtybrK

— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) December 12, 2019

There are a couple of problems with Jay Williams’ claim regarding distrust between James Harden and Russell Westbrook. For starters, Harden wanted to make sure that he pulled the second defender into his area. On top of that, Harden does in fact pass to Russell Westbrook. This type of two-minute clip makes it seem that there are issues on the Rockets when in reality there are none. Here is one more example of an unnecessary shot taken at Harden, although this time it comes from the NBA-on-TNT crew.


This was shown on Christmas Eve in which Ernie Johnson was compiling his list of holiday gifts for five select teams on Christmas. Notice a key difference as it pertains to the Rockets though, as nearly every other team on this list has a positive comment or a joke in their favor. The Rockets were the lone team to receive slander, and this particular example against Harden feeds into the narrative that Harden only scores because he shoots a lot of free throws. These are just a few examples just from the last week as the Rockets seem to consistently be on the receiving end of shade. At any given time, you can find Houston Rockets’ slander littered on the internet, which is solely limited to the Rockets’ franchise. It’s become the trending thing to do and it seems to become more popular each year.

Inconsistency with MVP voting

With all of the media biases against the Rockets, it’s led to greater problems, particularly in regards to the MVP voting. For starters, it doesn’t help that the MVP award is determined by the media, which almost always means James Harden will be slighted. Harden has been a runner-up on multiple occasions and the narrative seems to change each time. During the MVP voting following the 2014-15 season, Harden finished second to Stephen Curry and the most common justification was that the Warriors had a better overall record than the Rockets.

If you fast forward to the 2016-17 season, Russell Westbrook won the MVP over Harden, and the reasoning was that Westbrook had the triple-double average since Oscar Robertson in 1966-67 even though the Houston Rockets had a better record and Harden nearly finished with a triple-double himself.

Harden’s team had the best record in the 2017-18 season, which forced the media to vote for him, not to mention the fact that he also had unbelievable numbers as well.

During the 2018-19 season, Harden narrowly missed out on the MVP award due to Giannis Antetokounmpo nabbing the award. The basis for Antetokounmpo winning the MVP was simply because Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks had the better record, which discredited Harden’s historical season. Many people, including Harden believe that the narrative constantly changes to ensure Harden doesn’t win the MVP. Harden discussed this in the offseason on 97.9 The Box, which is Houston’s local hip-hop radio station.

The money quote is below:

“Once the media creates a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and run with it the entire year…All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level.”

The media’s constant bashing of the Houston Rockets not only affects perception, but it also plays a part in who wins yearly awards as well.

When did the hatred start?

The national media’s disdain towards the Rockets goes all the way back to tape decks and VCR’s, at least in the eyes of the Houston Rockets’ fanbase. During the ’80s, the Rockets were fortunate enough to make it to the NBA Finals in the 1980-81 season in addition to the 1985-86 season, but many in the media thought the Rockets’ Finals appearances were simply luck. As we all know, the Rockets won two championships during the ’90s, but the commonly accepted narrative is that the Rockets wouldn’t have these were it not for Michael Jordan’s retirement. This is erroneous because Jordan actually played during the 1994-95 season.

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Now the media narratives are wide-ranging from Daryl Morey being a heartless general manager who treats players like pawns on a chessboard to how Harden runs other stars out-of-town. Maybe it is the fishbowl syndrome in which you are limited to only seeing what’s in front of you but in this case there is mounting evidence that suggests otherwise. Even the worst detective would be able to put this case together.