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Hakeem’s Shadow: Losing the MVP could fuel James Harden

A Harden MVP win would be forever. A Harden MVP loss will fuel a Rockets playoff run, just ask the 1995 NBA champs.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets
Win or lose the MVP award the Rockets will benefit.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If James Harden wins the MVP award, it’s forever. He deserves the award after the league counted this Rockets team out before the season, but Harden carried the team to a 3rd place seeding while orchestrating a historic offense.

Unfortunately I’ve spent the last week tracking the MVP vote and James Harden is trailing Russell Westbrook in the race for the award. We’re constantly updating our spreadsheet and tally of the votes. Check it out here.

The NBA won’t officially award the MVP until the end of June, but we’ll know the result well before then.

Losing the award would be tough to swallow for Harden, the team and fans. But Houston has seen this before...

35.3 points per game
12.5 rebounds per game
5 assists per game
1.3 steals per game
4.2 blocks per game
111 offensive rating
101 defensive rating

Those stats belong to Hakeem Olajuwon over six games in 1995. The Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and David Robinson. Yes, the series where Houston advanced to the NBA Finals after David Robinson was infamously handed the MVP trophy before game one.

It’s a story which still lives today. Kenny Smith is going to tell it at least ten times on the TNT set over the next two weeks. The TNT, ESPN and ABC TV crews have undoubtedly already produced the package to air during the game.

Losing the award would hurt. Harden deserves it. Hell, he deserved it in 2015.

But there’s absolutely no question that James Harden holds a grudge.

And for the playoffs the Rockets organization and fans don’t want the casual James Harden. Or the James Harden perpetually irritated with his teammates. Or the James Harden preoccupied with what’s happening off-the-court.

We want an angry James Harden.

With his dead eyes and a face almost entirely obscured by an illustrious beard you can rarely tell what Harden is thinking.

But if James Harden has lost the MVP award... again... and he knows it, you could listen to a Rockets playoff game on the radio and know Harden’s range of thought is somewhere between “prove you wrong” and “burn this place to the ground.”

And everyone should buckle up.


Enjoy game one, Rockets fans.