James Harden is a 7x All-Star, 2x Scoring Champion, and the 2018 NBA MVP. But even with all the accolades, he feels he got robbed of recognition this past season. Here is what he told GQ:
“But they [the media] for sure got some teams they locked in on. We all know. That’s just what it is. You can’t tell me that a guy whose team was a 14-seed at one point last year, and ended up a four-seed with everything that was going on—so many injuries—and who went on a 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point games, two 60-point games in one season…and all the talk was about [Giannis Antetokounmpo]? There’s no way,” Harden told GQ.
“I just had to look at what I could do to get better for next year. You can’t pout or be mad, and the kid had an unbelievable season, so did his team. But the things I was putting up were legendary. You going to look back in 10, 15 years from now and be like, is that really true? Did that really happen? That’s some stuff they were doing back when Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and all those other guys were playing. But I’m happy. We have a team goal of winning a championship, and I’m ready to get going now.”
Harden feels as if the narrative surrounding Giannis distracted from his season with the Rockets. The media has certainly written a poetic script for the reigning MVP — “The next LeBron,” the “Greek Freak,” the “human highlight reel.”
But Harden has not been forgotten by the masses, either. He was recognized last year when he won league MVP and is at the top of most top-10 lists. Unlike Giannis, however, Harden is notorious for disappearing when his team needs him most.
This past postseason, the Rockets were unable to get past the Warriors, despite hailing themselves as their toughest competitors.
Another, far simpler answer, is that Giannis was simply better. He is a better defender, averaged twice as many rebounds, shot 13% better from the field, and lead his team to a better overall record — including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Maybe instead of worrying about regular-season accolades, Harden and the new-look Rockets should shift their focus towards the things beyond, towards April, May, and June.
Nonetheless, you can expect Harden to go all-in on his revenge tour this campaign.