18 people who turned their back on the Houston Rockets franchise

NBA All-Star Game 2016
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1. James Harden

James Harden is one of the three greatest players to ever suit up for the Rockets. Harden arrived in Houston in 2012, as the Oklahoma City Thunder, a small market team, found themselves in a financial conundrum, after giving Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kendrick Perkins contract extensions. 

The Rockets proved to be beneficiaries, as they landed the 23-year-old Sixth Man and hoped he could ascend into a superstar. This was a bold move, as reserves aren't always able to become franchise players on other teams.

However, it worked out for both Harden and the Rockets, as he got the max contract that Oklahoma City wasn't willing to dole out, and he proved himself as one of the better young talents in the league. Harden led the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals in just his third season in the Space City, despite Dwight Howard missing a good chunk of the season (41 games, to be exact).

Harden led the Rockets to the postseason in each season he played, while winning MVP in 2017-18 and winning the scoring title for three consecutive seasons. The Rockets also reached the Western Conference Finals once more in Harden's MVP season and had the best record in the league.

Harden's stellar play on the court led to extended concessions off the court, as the Rockets allowed him to take trips to the islands in between games. In addition, the Rockets planned their travel schedule around Harden's requests, as they'd stick around in a vibrant city after facing the home team if Harden wanted.

In addition, the Rockets constantly allowed Harden to pick his running mate, ranging from Dwight Howard to Chris Paul to Russell Westbrook to John Wall. Despite this, Harden decided it was time for a split after the Rockets' 2020 postseason defeat to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. 

Harden chose to avoid being around the team, which had an influx of new players, not to mention a new coach, prior to the start of the 2020-21 season. Harden failed to show up for training camp, electing to party with trap hip-hop artist Lil Baby instead.

The three-time scoring champion promised Rockets coach Stephen Silas that he'd show up for a private workout at the nearby University of Houston and went back on his word, choosing not to show up. Harden reportedly remained committed to the organization and the city, which seemed to be the case after the first three games, in which The Beard averaged 37 points, 11 assists, 52.5 percent from the field (32-of-61 shooting), and 45.5 percent from long-range (15-of-33).

Harden was aggressive and sought to get to the free throw line, as he averaged 12 trips to the charity stripe during that span, which was more than he'd ever gotten to the free throw line in any season. 

However, Harden seemed to have a change of heart as some point, as he averaged 17.4 points, 10 assists, 37.8 percent from the field (28-of-74 shooting), and 25.6 percent from three (10-of-39). 

Oh, and that aggressiveness to get to the foul line? That also disappeared, as Harden averaged just 4.8 attempts at the charity stripe.

In other words, Harden quit on the Rockets. And he later justified it by saying that the Rockets simply weren't good enough.