Update: This story was originally published in the Houston Chronicle on April 10, 2015. Harden did not win MVP, sad face.
True story- Microsoft Word has Beyoncé in its spell check database to make sure that we plebeians get the accent mark right. When spell check has got your back, you know you’ve made it big. Incidentally, Beyoncé has a poignant line in “Drunk in Love” – We woke up in the kitchen, saying ‘How the hell did this shit happen?’ MVP voters, don’t let that be you. Don’t wake up in the kitchen with Steph Curry thinking how you let James Harden’s 2014-2015 pass you by, unrewarded.
At this point in the NBA season, it’s exhausting how many words have been spent trying to discern between Steph Curry and James Harden. We’re looking at the slimmest of margins between perhaps the next Steve Nash, and the NBA’s best villain.
I was eating at Tacos la Bala over the weekend, and I saw another patron wearing a James Harden jersey. He was talking very emphatically to the man sitting across from him, and I was able to make out this quote from their conversation: ¡Dios mío! Give it time. They’ll see. This city will win out. It always does. Lesson: the best sources of inspiration clearly come from a) the bathroom, and b) eating tacos.
We’ve approached this MVP race all wrong. In the recent weeks, most people have resigned themselves to Curry’s impending MVP primacy on the grounds that he’d be the player that the least people outside Houston would be upset about if he were to take home the Podoloff. In that case, this is no longer about Harden versus Curry. If this is Houston vs. the World®, then bring it.
Basketball teams tend to embody the spirit of their cities. Think of the glitziness of the California teams (except Sacramento- sorry Boogie). Or the entrenched history and culture of the Boston Celtics. The scrappiness and will to survive of the New Orleans Pelicans. When it comes to the current iteration of the Rockets? A capitalist, do-whatever-you-can-to-come-out-on-top, no nonsense persona that’s best embodied by their eurostepping, swashbuckling, foul drawing, playmaking superstar.
I had the pleasure of listening to Mayor Annise Parker last week, and she made a good point. There’s no real obvious reason for Houston to exist. Houston’s not a major port city, not directly near a major waterway, the geography doesn’t really inspire economics, and it wasn’t rich in natural resources like gold. But early residents of the Buffalo Bayouwere nothing if not opportunistic.
So then it’s only fitting that James Harden embodies and encapsulates that very same verve and mentality. The Rockets roster is threadbare, especially without Dwight Howard. Without James Harden, the Rockets morph into the Nuggets. You’re not supposed to be able to win with just one star. There’s no discernible explanation for this team to be tied for the 2nd seed in a historically strong conference. Except for the beard.
In 1900, the Galveston Hurricane wrecked the crown jewel of the Texas coast, and prompted businesses and investors to move inwards to what then was essentially the Tortuga of Texas. Oil was discovered, the railroads then had a purpose, and the rest is history. In 2012, Oklahoma City was mired in the turbulence of rapid expansion without any idea of how to brace for the salary cap and retain their core. The fire sale had begun. And who better to pop in during OKC’s 11th hour than the opportunistic Daryl Morey himself. In came Morey, and back with him came James Harden. Oil was discovered, the railroads then had a purpose, and the rest is history.
Need another history lesson? Harden’s stat line this season hasn’t been put up by anyone in history not named Bird, LeBron, or Jordan.
Keep calm and Beard on.