From the moment James Harden busted out of Arizona State (where he was named an All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year as a sophomore) and into the NBA as the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, he has had a huge effect on the game and its fans.
Harden was the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first ever draft pick, and he rewarded them with an NBA All-Rookie Second Team-level performance and a 2011-12 selection as Sixth Man of the Year, while helping them reach the NBA Finals the same year. A member of the Houston Rockets since 2012, Harden is now one of the NBA’s top scorers, and has earned recognition as the game’s best shooting guard, and one of the top overall players in the league. He has also made three All-Star teams, and was named the National Basketball Players Association’s first MVP last year.
Yet with great power comes great responsibility, and in sports, a greater chance of catching heat. Although Harden usually infuriates folks because of his dominant play, he has also repeatedly been accused of being too aloof, not moving his feet nearly enough, and flopping in order to draw fouls. Harden is an enthusiastic player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and when others in the game - opponents, teammates, and coaches included - feel wronged, they’re not afraid to express themselves in return. The same can be said of commentators, fans, and pretty much anyone else remotely connected to the game. It seems eveyone has some sort of opinion on James Harden, and the results are quite divided; although many absolutely adore the 26-year-old forward, a slew of others feel the exact opposite. Here are the top 15 people who do not like James Harden.
15 Chandler Parsons
After several players departed following the 2013-14 season, James Harden said his Rockets would be “fine,” because they only lost “role players.” This was probably reassuring for Houston fans, but it’s not something the alleged role players took too kindly to. An incensed Chandler Parsons, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks that offseason, spoke out regarding Harden’s comment, calling it “a pretty ridiculous statement.” He later added on Twitter that certain people should “think before [they] speak.”
14 Evan Turner
James Harden has drawn his fair share of ire from opponents over the years, but almost all the incidents have been simple exchanges of words or a little contact during a foul. However, Evan Turner clearly had a big problem with Harden during a 2014 game when he laid a hand on the Rockets guard after a whistle, got it pushed away, and then shoved Harden, drawing a foul. The exchange wasn’t too heated, but it made it clear that Evan Turner is not a very big fan of Harden.
13 J.B. Bickerstaff
When Rockets head coach Kevin McHale was fired, J.B. Bickerstaff took over, and it didn’t take long before James Harden got on his nerves as well. Up 103-94 with eight minutes to go against the San Antonio Spurs during a December 26, 2015 game, the Rockets only managed an inexcusable five points the rest of the way, and lost 110-108. After the game, a furious Bickerstaff referred to the issue as a core one, and without naming Harden as the problem, the coach gave vague examples that clearly pointed at the team’s star, who excelled when he was trying, but repeatedly played poor and downright lazy offense as the game came to a close.
12 This Fan
When a fan wants an opposing player to know they do not care for them, a heckle, a boo, or even a sign are effective ways of expressing this. Shining a high-strength flashlight in the player’s eyes while they are attempting to shoot free throws, on the other hand, is not. Yet some misguided jokester pulled this exact stunt at a January 4, 2016 game - twice - eventually getting busted when an official spotted him and had him removed. The NBA then slapped the offender with a one-year ban from any NBA game.
The penalty seems a bit steep, but not when you consider he was basically trying to blind Harden. I think it’s safe to say the flashlight man probably doesn’t care for James or his 87.3 free throw percentage.
11 His Teammates
After their disappointing 4-7 start, the Houston Rockets apparently held a players-only meeting back on November 17, 2015. According to the source, James Harden’s play and aloofness were frustrating to his teammates, who repeatedly singled the player out during the closed-door conference. Although Harden was still putting up a stellar 27.3 points per game at the time, he was shockingly only shooting 37.2 percent from the field, and an even worse 26.2 from beyond the arc. His 4.8 turnover average and non-existent defense were (and are still) huge issues as well. Most of his teammates probably support Harden, but it’s clear that many also felt spurned.
10 Kevin McHale
One of the unintentional results of the November 17 meeting was the firing of head coach Kevin McHale, who was less than a year into a three-year, $12 million contract extension. The team’s 4-7 record and their defensive efficiency was scored a 106.5, ranking the Rockets 29th in the league. Of course, James Harden’s paltry defensive numbers were a huge part of this, given that he is the team’s star, and also the fact that his strong play on D was one of the main factors in their 2014-15 success, and the 100.5 defensive efficiency that made the team sixth in the NBA in this category.
McHale was likely just a scapegoat for Harden, especially since the coach owned a 193-130 record in four seasons with Houston, and made the playoffs in the last three.
9 Kevin McHale’s Wife
Like a true professional and Hall of Famer, coach Kevin McHale took his firing in stride publicly, obviously understanding the true reasons behind the symbolic move without needing to explicitly acknowledge them. McHale’s wife, Lynn, on the other hand, didn’t go as quietly. On a quickly-deleted tweet, she alluded to her opinion of the axing while posting a link to a story that suggested her husband was fired for daring to ask Harden to play defense during a practice, and also poked fun at the alleged “Kardashian Curse” attached to Harden. Mrs. McHale took aim at Rockets GM Daryl Morey too, but clearly she believes Harden should take most of the blame for the firing.
8 Charles Barkley
Former NBA legend and current commentator Charles Barkley talks a lot of smack, so it’s hard to take the big guy seriously. Still, Chuck has had words for James Harden numerous times, including beefs over his wardrobe (Barkley called him out for wearing a skirt, which later turned out to just be a very long shirt), the fact that Harden likely got McHale fired (on an Inside the NBA segment, Chuck joked that every time Harden does his celebration move, a coach gets fired), and already this year, Barkley said he does “not like James Harden’s play” and that he “would not be fun to play with.”
7 Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace is known for his occasionally brash and reckless actions, but elbowing James Harden in the head while “celebrating” a basket was entirely uncalled for. The incident occurred way back on April 22, 2012, and resulted in Harden being knocked to the floor for several minutes, eventually leaving the game and missing several others after being diagnosed with a concussion. World Peace apologized, called the elbow “unintentional,” and was suspended for seven games.
Literally adding insult to injury, three weeks afterward, World Peace also referred to Harden when he said he doesn’t “shake hands with substitutes.” The worst part, however, was the fact that a year-and-a-half later, a young fan asked about the incident, and World Peace denied it ever happened.
6 Adidas President Mark King
Last summer, James Harden signed a $200 million endorsement deal with Adidas. Yet before the season could even end, Harden was spotted on a date with Khloe Kardashian while sporting a pair of Jordans - owned by rival shoemaker Nike. Although endorsement deals don’t always pertain to the athlete’s personal life, that’s not the case here, an unhappy Adidas president Mark King made clear in a statement. “Harden does [have to wear them all the time], and he will be in our lifestyle stuff … That’s part of the deal.” Further complicating things, Khloe’s brother-in-law-, Kanye West, also has his own Adidas line.
5 LeBron James
LeBron James and James Harden have generally managed to avoid butting heads through most of their careers thus far, but last year Harden crossed the line. During a March 1 game, LeBron attempted to wrestle the ball away from Harden, causing the Rockets guard to fall down. But while separating from LeBron, Harden kicked him in the groin, drawing a Flagrant One foul. LeBron was clearly angered by the cheap shot, and for good reason: the NBA eventually ruled it serious enough to warrant a one-game suspension for Harden. LeBron later condemned Harden for his actions.
4 Dwight Howard
Even after two and a half years as Houston Rockets teammates, James Harden and Dwight Howard still don’t quite get along. And from the sound of things, Howard might be a bit more at fault. Reports have said that Howard is jealous of sharing the spotlight with the superior Harden, and may be looking for a trade elsewhere. Even though Dwight has had previous beefs with other teammates and players in the past (see: Kobe Bryant), he, for his part, denies the allegations. Time will tell though, as Howard has the opportunity to opt out of his current contract at the end of this season.
3 Lamar Odom
A large percentage of NBA fans couldn’t care less about players’ personal lives, but it’s hard to avoid news about James Harden, who constantly appears in entertainment and tabloid publications. Most recently, reports surfaced that former NBA great Lamar Odom was jealous of Harden, who is currently dating Khloe Kardashian, with whom Odom is still married, but currently separated from. It was also reported that Odom constantly asked about Harden after waking from his coma following a drug overdose last year. Odom apparently still lives with Khloe, further complicating the situation.
2 Lil B
Not only does rapper Lil B (a.k.a The Based God) not like James Harden, but he went as far as to put a curse on him - twice! The feud began when Lil B accused Harden of copying his “cooking dance” for a post-scoring celebration, and Harden refused to give credit or even acknowledge the rapper at all for it. With the abysmal start to the season for both Harden and his Rockets, it appeared as if the curse was in full effect, and Lil B made sure to point this out on Twitter numerous times, especially after three straight, 20-point losses back in October. Lil B previously “cursed” Kevin Durant after a similar incident.
1 Matt Barnes
When it comes to trash talk, anything goes, as long as it stays between players. Saying something to another player’s mother, though, completely crosses the line. Which is why it was disgusting and shocking to hear that Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes allegedly told James Harden’s mom to “suck my d--k, b---h,” during a May 6, 2015 game in which he also threw Harden to the ground while drawing a foul. No matter how strongly Barnes feels about Harden, there is literally no excuse for cursing at an opponent’s mother, and Harden’s older brother confronted Barnes about it afterward, and demanded an apology. Barnes apparently did so, and was also later fined $50,000 by the NBA for using inappropriate language.