Best of the Rockets

Can James Harden ever catch Hakeem Olajuwon for greatest Rocket?

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We have always wondered if James Harden will ever match the success of Hakeem Olajuwon. There is no question that Harden is great, but will he be able to fill the shoes of Hakeem? These questions needed to be answered soon but when will they be?

Hakeem and Harden are honestly the best two players to ever put on a Rockets uniform. Even though these players are great, Hakeem's name weighs more than Harden. Hakeem has accomplished more by going back to back in the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals. He is also No. 11 in all-time scoring. Like Harden, Hakeem terrorized defenders with his versatile post moves. He even created a move called the "The Dream Shake" which is now transcendent in the NBA. Hakeem was a twelve-time all-star, won defensive player of the year twice and made the NBA First Team six times. In addition, he was on the NBA Defensive Team five teams, and became an MVP in 1994. His accomplishments are through the roof, but Hakeem was also a team player by doing everything on the court. Hakeem even recorded two quadruple doubles in the same month in the 1987 season. His ability was so unbelievable and un-guardable that they called him the "The Dream." Players like Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan will always pay their respects to the best center in basketball. Does this huge shadow still stand over Harden? Should he have live up to these expectations?

Harden will never have a hard time breaking records nor being a MVP candidate in the NBA. He is easily today the best scorer in the league. Harden has accomplished a host of good deeds in this league by winning the Sixth Man of the Year award as well as the MVP award. He has also made the All-NBA Team six times, the All-Star team seven times, and the NBA First Team five times. Coaches in the NBA have a tough time figuring out the defense they will use for Harden. Harden gives most teams fits by getting to the line or using his unorthodox step back jumper. That step can now be seen in the WNBA, NBA, and in many, many high schools. Harden's creativity is the only thing that makes him comparable to Hakeem. Time and time again, analyst, reporters, and fans have questioned the true heart of Harden.


Hardens full ability to the game of basketball still has not been reached yet. Even though Harden has gotten better on defense, there are still questions regarding it. Analysts have pointed out the fact that he is a pretty good post defender and was second in steals last season. Harden would really become a great player if he tried to guard players like Steph Curry, LeBron James, or Paul George. He has also struggled to become a team player by not getting his teammates involved enough. That causes them to lose confidence in their shot making ability. Also dribbling the ball to the final digit has not helped his case either. Another flaw that Harden has is not approaching playoff games in a strong manner. Harden can also disappear during big games in the playoffs. He has been in Houston for seven seasons and never has seen the NBA Finals. We have always wondered if Harden will ever win a Championship in Houston. Harden will be all out of excuses if he cannot win one with Russell Westbrook.


Hopefully one day Harden will be able to get rid of Hakeem's shadow by matching his success or overcoming it.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome