At the moment, the James Harden Brand has taken a bit of a hit. It's not hard to understand why seeing as how his NBA team blew Games 6 and 7 to the Celtics to once again lose in the 2nd round of the playoffs with Harden finishing that series a combined 7-27 (1-11) with 10 TOs. If that wasn't brutal enough, he took things up a level a few months later by opting into his $35M player option only to then immediately pull a Dame and demand a trade to one specific team, essentially tanking his trade market value for Daryl Morey. A bold move for a guy that had the type of ending to the season Harden did, and as we quickly approach mid August, there are no real signs of a trade coming any time soon
While Dame may get most of the online dragging for what he's trying to pull in Portland, make no mistake, the only real difference between him and Harden is the fact that Harden only has 1 year left on his deal. But the whole forcing your way to one specific team when you could have just turned down the player option and gone where you wanted but you also wanted the money is just as lame for Harden as it is for Dame.
You can understand why Sixers fans out there may be fed up with the guy/have no issues with him demanding a trade/etc. We already know how NBA Twitter feels about him, and despite being one of the most dominant offensive forces in NBA history, a surefire HOF player, and a Top 75 Team member, I think it's fair to suggest that here in the US there's a whole lot more hate/slander coming Harden's way than praise or appreciation. I'd say 99.9% of that is his own doing, but all you have to do is see the difference in how Harden is treated in other parts of the world to get a sense of how different it is here in the States.
Part of this of course is the Yao effect. His stint in Houston opened up those doors and things have been going strong ever since. I mean look at that reaction! I wasn't alive for the Beatles or Elvis or any of that, but that's what I thought of when I saw that clip. It's not quite Messi levels, but it's pretty damn close. Harden is essentially a God to these fans. Compare that to how we talk/act toward Harden here in the US, and it's the total and complete opposite!
Which got me thinking. At some point wouldn't you just say fuck it and go over to China where you can just be treated like royalty? I'm sure the league over there would pay Harden an unthinkable amount of money to do it, he would absolutely dominate it even as he ages, and obviously, he wouldn't have to deal with all the bullshit he has to put up with here. Do any of those people look like they care that Harden choked Games 6 & 7 just a few months ago? How many of them do you think spend their time online slandering Harden and calling him a loser/playoff choker? Do you think Harden is getting this same sort of reaction in Philly or LA right now? Hell no!
I get that there's no league better than the NBA and all that. I get that players try and hang onto that NBA life for as long as they can because all things considered, it seems pretty damn sweet. I know someone like Harden is still searching for that first ever title, but I also think that unless he wins a ring with him being the main reason why, nothing about his career narrative is going to change all that much. At this point, that's probably unlikely.
I'm just saying at some point I would maybe think about switching things up and going from one of the most slandered NBA stars to instantly living like a legitimate God. That seems pretty fun as well. Maybe give the NBA 2 or 3 more years and then go live like a king for a while. Why the hell not?
On a separate note, one of the greatest NBA "what ifs" has to be Yao's health. Who knows what happens if he ever was able to find a way to stay healthy through his NBA prime years like he did when he was playing 80+ games his first three years in the league. But once he hit Year 4 (age 25) he never played more than 57 games until 2008-09 (77). Then he missed the entire 2009-10 season and that was that.