By: Mike Spitz
I wish I could quantify how much it pains me to write this. I was riding so high
yesterday. I had a great night Friday, my Spartans won in overtime, I went on a
wonderful date to PF Chang’s with my girlfriend and then sometime around 11
pm… I checked Twitter. Finding out about your trade to Houston took the wind from
my sails. Suddenly watching ‘The Social Network’ wasn’t interesting; I just wanted to
take a short walk off a long bridge.
Watching you, Kevin, Russell and the gang the last three years was like hopping into
a time machine and watching the real life version of the Super Friends. I remember
what it was like being a Thunder fan before you arrived. You should’ve seen Kevin.
You think he’s skinny now. The reason most of us were excited for the future was
Kevin and Jeff Green. We just didn’t really know what to make of you and Russ in
the long term. How were we supposed to know your talent and chemistry would
materialize so quickly? I watched you a few times while you were at Arizona State,
but I really had no clue what kind of pro you would be.
My first concrete memory of you is draft night, 2009. I had just graduated high
school. It feels so long ago. I was pretty excited; the Thunder had shown a lot of
promise the season earlier and they sat in a really good position with the 3rd pick
in the draft. I was certain the Thunder were going to take Steph Curry or Ricky
Rubio. I think you and Sam Presti were the only two guys on earth who knew what
you were destined to become. I should’ve known I was destined to become a huge
fan the moment I saw your bow-tie on draft night. I wasn’t too disappointed when
you were selected, I just didn’t know what to think. I’m sure you understand.
At one point during your rookie season, I texted my friend and fellow Thunder
fan with an observation I made of you. “Harden looks like he doesn’t care
about anything. I never see his facial expression change.” He replied somewhat
concerned, “Hmm. That isn’t good.” How were we supposed to know about all the
different expressions hiding under that glorious facial hair?
In your first season, who would have thought! We made the playoffs, helping the
team more than double their total wins from the year before. The world didn’t really
get a good chance to see you and we still weren’t exactly sure what you would
become. So what if we were only the 8th seed and bowed out of the playoffs in the
first round. I watched every playoff game and spent most of my time when you guys
weren’t playing online looking up Thunder flags to hang proudly in my living room.
You guys playing so well and making the playoffs sure made it easier for this fan
from Michigan to see you guys. You definitely helped my wallet too, as I didn’t have
to go to Bdubs multiple times a week just to watch you guys play.
Your second year didn’t see much statistical improvement, but those of us following
definitely had good reason to be excited. You were our best player on the bench,
and we all thought it would be only a matter of time before you were starting next
to your superstar running mates. We couldn’t figure out why Scotty Brooks made
you keep starting games on the pine.
Your beard started getting lots of notoriety two years ago, and so many people were
hopping on the Thunder bandwagon that it was hard to keep my comfortable seat.
I’ll never forget you guys growing up in front of my eyes against that pesky Grizzlies
team, advancing to the conference finals. We were so close to the Finals! Who could
have possibly predicted how quickly you guys would progress. Of course then Dirk
happened, nobody on earth could stop him that spring, and that was okay. It was his
With an obviously depleted Mavs team attempting to defend their title, the world
started catching on to what myself and a few close friends were already thinking; it
was your year last year. The previous summer you tore up the summer league, and
it looked again like you would definitely start. Scotty somewhat broke our hearts
again by retaining Thabo Sefalosha as the starter. I don’t know if this has anything
to do with you leaving, if you felt slighted being on the bench and third banana on
an elite team while people you came into the league with like Curry and Brandon
Jennings thrived on poor teams. If it is, just know that we loved you with the same
ferocity we love KD and Russ. Your beard became a cultural icon in OKC. I wonder
if you’ll cut it in Houston, starting completely anew. I wont forget you guys taking
down the mighty Spurs in the playoffs and being so close to that ring. I won’t forget
before games in the Finals when you would hug all of your teammates and then run
and swing around the rim like a kid on an eight foot hoop, flames erupting
in the backboard.
You even made the Olympic team this year. I was so excited when you threw down
what may have been the best dunk of the Olympics . I watched like a proud friend when you, KD and Russ were given your gold medals and Serge earned his silver.
I’m not going to lie, yesterday was the first day I’ve ever felt like I can relate to
Taylor Swift. I almost went and bought her new album. My heart is in pieces. Staying
home on Friday nights because the Thunder game is on ESPN won’t feel quite the
same this year. I’m not fully prepared for my first game as a fan where I can’t count
down the minutes until it’s your turn to enter and get the offense going
again. I think the Thunder will still be great, but it’ll be like watching Recess without
Vince or Spinelli. It’s just not gonna be the same.
I’ll still support you James. It won’t be easy at first, but the Rockets are a team I
already thought was on the cusp of success. Houston fans are going to have some
great memories thanks to you, and I’ll be clapping the whole time.
Go share your words of support, maybe chip in to buy some Taylor Swift concert tickets for the proud, but hurting, OKC Thunder fan and great writer @micspitz