Harden’s Arrival to the Houston Rockets
When James Harden was traded to Houston on October 27, 2012, the move represented a much needed reset for the Rockets. After all, the Tracy McGrady–Yao Ming tandem never reached its full potential due to untimely injuries, and in the following years the Rockets had been a middling team in the Western Conference, hanging their hat on players like Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic and Aaron Brooks; talented and likable players in their own right, but not franchise cornerstones.
In the NBA, the most difficult thing to do is to find a single player that lifts you out of the doldrums of mediocrity into perennial contention. On his first night as a Rocket, Harden dominated with 37 points and 12 assists. Houston finally had their guy.
Over the next eight seasons, the Houston Rockets became the personification of consistency in the NBA, racking up 50-wins five times and making the playoffs every single year (the only team in the NBA to do so during that period). Harden also enjoyed his own run of singular success, winning the MVP award in the 2017-18 season and finishing third or higher in MVP voting five times.
But these personal accolades did not come without their fair share of playoff stains. In Game 6 of the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs, Harden posted a disappointing 10 points on 2-11 shooting, resulting in being benched as the game waned.
To the national media and fanbase, Harden had started to gain a reputation as a choker. But for Rockets fans, there was far more to Harden than his playoff failures. After all, without him, their team would still be toiling in the middle of the pack every year. As the ire of the online discourse about Harden grew, so did the fans’ pride in being his most staunch defenders.
Next: The KD effect