OKLAHOMA CITY – After the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, fans had no doubt that their team would be back in the spotlight soon.
It seems the stars of the Oklahoma City Thunder felt the same way.
Since then, the Thunder have not been back to the Finals, and many fans wonder if things would have been different if the Thunder had never traded James Harden.
‘The Beard’ said in an interview with ESPN in 2016 that he thought he was always going to be the sixth man with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He says when Oklahoma City offered him a contract that was $6 million less than the maximum, he needed time to think about it.
However, it was time that he didn’t have.
“It was like an afternoon phone call, like four o’clock and I had an hour or so to make my decision, whether I wanted to take the offer or not. I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is the most money I’ve ever made in my life and you’re giving me a short amount of time to decide.’ And it wasn’t enough time for me,” Harden said.
A few hours later, he received a phone call from Thunder General Manager Sam Presti. That’s when he learned that he had been traded to the Houston Rockets.
“That was a very, very sad night,” Harden said.
“I went home, laid down and just started tearing up. We had big plans that we were going to win a championship for years,” Harden added.
Harden says that hurt turned to anger.
“It’s been almost four years and I still think about it,” he said in the video from 2016.
Officials with the Thunder say they wanted Harden to stay, but a disagreement over money is what led to the trade.
“We wanted to sign James to an extension, but at the end of the day, these situations have to work for all those involved. Our ownership group again showed their commitment to the organization with several significant offers,” General Manager Sam Presti said in 2012. “We were unable to reach a mutual agreement, and therefore executed a trade that capitalized on the opportunity to bring in a player of Kevin’s caliber, a young talent like Jeremy and draft picks, which will be important to our organizational goal of a sustainable team. We appreciate James, Cole, Daequan and Lazar’s contributions to the Thunder organization and this community and wish them the best in the future.”
Now, he is the star of the Houston Rockets and is the face of the franchise.
Despite almost five years passing since the trade, many Thunder fans still think about what could have been had Harden stayed in Oklahoma City.