By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
For FOX Deportes
Its funny that I’d even address you by “James” at this point. Why, you might ask? Well, its because frankly, we the people hardly even recognize who you are in these NBA Finals. You see, we’ve resorted to calling you “Jeff Harden” (courtesy of @blewis09 and @soulonice6) these days because the James Edward Harden, Jr. that I know is a man that I used to know eons and eons ago.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating on the eons, but just a week and a half ago you were the third piece of the triumvirate of superstars that the Oklahoma City Thunder employ to wreck havoc on all comers. You know, the sweep of the defending champions in 4 games. The destruction of the Lakers in 5 games. The triumph over the stodgy old guard that was the Spurs in 6 games. You remember those days? They were a glorious time. As a cunning pass to a shooter, a courageous drive to the rim, and a confident rise of your jumper proved that your game was as chaotic and beautiful as an ongoing session of salsa and merengue on the dance floor.
Yet that has seemingly vanished.
If you need a particular moment to point at, allow me to use the most recent of memories. Game 4 in Miami, as the Thunder leapt out to a strong lead versus the Heat. Russell Westbrook was playing the greatest game of his professional career, Kevin Durant was in his usual form, and defensively Scott Brooks has his troops holding the fort to try and win an important game on the road.
Then you happened.
2-10 shooting from the floor. 1-5 from three-point range. 4 turnovers.
Honestly, none of those stats matter to me.
What matters is that the look on your face looked like a blend of a lost puppy dog and a kid who got his bike stolen and didn’t want to go home to tell his mama. You remember in the 4th quarter, when the ball swung your way on the top of the key for a wide-open 17-footer? Hell, the moment presented itself for a nice drive to the rim as well. Instead, you hesitated. Looked to pass. Made a few reckless dribbles, then clanked an off-balance shot. In a nutshell, that’s a microcasm of how you played all game.
My good friend Ken, he said it looked like you were setting a stack of money on fire. Remember how the Joker sat on the stack of money in the Batman movie? Then he slid down the stack, pulled out a can of gasoline and doused the bundles of cash then set it ablaze? Well, at least the Joker did it with a smile on his face. If you’re going to proverbially set your money on fire, at least go all out. Be aggressive, even with your mistakes. Be assertive, even if met with resistance. Why? Because basketball fans won’t be able to sleep thinking that you left some bullets in the chamber as a team’s destiny and foundation for greatness could be permanently laid in the next few days. (Along with the team the Thunder’s facing as well.)
Channel your inner Vinnie Johnson. James Worthy. Manu Ginobili. Or any other superstar who’s greatness isn’t questioned, but isn’t in the forefront of the team’s stardom.
You wear the beard for a reason. Men with beards don’t play meek, timid or a few other words that aren’t applicable for this type of forum. Plus you wear an egregious mohawk. Play with that same type of reckless abandon, and maybe your squad can still play a home game in June.