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James Harden has a wager for you

And other bets you shouldn’t take.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets
I’d like to offer you a small wager.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When I was younger, I learned a valuable lesson late one night on Canal Street in New Orleans. If you’ve walked around there at night it used to be, and probably still is, full of hustlers. As is typical in New Orleans, I’d had a bit to drink. I claim this as my excuse.

A man approached me and offered a wager.

“I bet you ten dollars I can tell you where you got your shoes.” Ha, I thought, an easy win for me. I’d bought those shoes in New Zealand. Sure. Go ahead.

“You got your shoes right here on Canal street.”

Huh. I was chagrined. The woman beside me was laughing, at me. Vexing. “That’s not a very good trick. I’ll give you five.”

“I’ll give you some advice, and you can decide if you’ll pay me ten.”


“Don’t ever take another man’s bet.”

I thought for a moment. “That’s worth ten bucks.” And I handed it over.

This advice has proved to be worth far (far) more than ten dollars to me over the years. I consider it money well-spent.

Every time he plays basketball, James Harden offers defenders various propositions:

Here’s the ball, take it.

Here’s the shot, it’s slow, block it.

This is where I’m going, get in my way.

I’m stepping back, jump at me.

Every one a sucker bet.

NBA defenders know it’s a sucker bet. Everyone watching the game knows it’s a sucker bet. The referees know it’s a sucker bet. Yet every game, defenders take another man’s bet. And far more often than not, they lose.

Losing a bet like that isn’t only costly (2pts, 3pts, 4pts maybe, and a foul); it’s embarrassing. No one likes to be embarrassed, especially NBA players.

NBA players are the absolute best at their craft in the world. No one gets to the NBA without an ego, and a justified sense that they’re better at this one thing than basically everyone else on earth.

When those proud young men play James Harden, they are often made to look like JV players, making elementary mistakes. Reaching in, sticking a knee into someone’s path, slapping a shooter’s arm that was held out for them to slap, leaping into a shooter, or his landing space. They don’t DO that kind of thing. But they just did it. Again and again.

They know better. They’ve been told not to get fooled. They’ve watched the game breakdowns. They’re literally the best.

When the crowd is roaring, your ego and pride as a professional is on the line, and this funny-looking dude offers you a wager, well, you’ve just got to take it, right? This time I’m getting the ball! No, you aren’t, Charlie Brown.

Cue the outrage. James Harden fooled you. Again. No one likes to be made a fool. Blame the guy who tricked you. Blame the refs. Stir up outrage for this crime against, what, exactly? The purity of the game? When you acted like you’d been shot from a cannon running into a hard pick, five minutes ago? Change the rules!

Really, it’s just better to accept you were fooled.

And next time, don’t take another man’s bet.



What is the real issue?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    (74 votes)
  • 13%
    (58 votes)
  • 14%
    Some windy answer about the spirit of the game.
    (66 votes)
  • 41%
    People just don’t like the Rockets.
    (185 votes)
  • 13%
    Mark Cuban would make everyone love Harden.
    (60 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now