2. James Harden’s partying is a nuisance, not a problem
In Tim MacMahon’s article, a member of the Houston Rockets’ 2019-2020 coaching staff cited Harden’s social life as a problem to the team’s culture. “If they have multiple days off, everybody knows James is going to fly somewhere else and party. But he’s going to come back and have a 50-point triple double, so they’re ok with it.”
To expand on this, MacMahon cited the lax culture as an issue created by Harden. He cited how “scheduled departure times” were treated “as mere suggestions by Harden and others.”
The team was characterized in MacMahon’s article as “an organized AAU team” which was followed up with an example of Harden arriving late to a film session which left Russell Westbrook unhappy. The leeway granted by the organization such as partying between games can be problematic to a team’s culture.
However, Rockets’ management permitted this during Harden’s tenure due to him still showing up for work and delivering on a nightly basis. Harden doesn’t have the championships to show for it, but he has earned the trust of Houston fans and the organization through his historic personal achievements such as winning the league MVP in 2017-2018 and being an All-NBA First team player six out of the last seven years.
It shouldn’t be overlooked but Harden wasn’t the only NBA player whose social life became an inconvenience to their team or placed them under the spotlight. ESPN’s The Last Dance, a miniseries that chronicled the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan Era, highlighted Jordan’s gambling obsession.
In episodes, his Atlantic City trips between crucial playoff games against the New York Knicks were discussed retrospectively. However, Jordan’s gambling was a major topic of discussion in the media at the time and it was often brought up during his career as a major issue surrounding the stability of the franchise.
Jordan wasn’t the only player with questionable nightlife habits, as The Last Dance examined another key player from those Bulls’ teams, Dennis Rodman. In an episode devoted to Rodman, it detailed how he asked for an in-season vacation and was granted a 48-hour window to do whatever he pleased.
Rodman spent his time partying in Las Vegas and ended up not reporting back in time. The team had feared that this would happen but they knew they needed Rodman happy and focused if they were going to win a third straight title.
NBA players are human and while there is favoritism towards key players by team owners, many of the stories that we often hear about their lifestyles are swept under the rug due to them continuing to show up to work and elevating their team to success. Harden is just a recent example of a superstar player who likes to party, but he certainly won’t be the last.
Next: Takeaway #1