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Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC and James Harden were a parting that had to be

This was a union too successful for its own good. Harden and the Thunder just had too much. Too much talent, too much fortune, too much fame. NBA economics and NBA culture could not sustain so many phenoms in one place at one time.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 20, 2013

The Beard left the Thunder, and he wasn't the first to walk away from a good thing.

Shelly Long left “Cheers.” David Lee Roth bolted Van Halen. Lot left Uncle Abraham. It's right there in Genesis 13.

“And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great.”

No better description of what happened with James Harden and the Thunder.

We'll see Harden walk onto the court Sunday night to open the playoffs and think about what could have been. A love that should have lasted years.

But in truth, this was a union too successful for its own good. Harden and the Thunder just had too much. Too much talent, too much fortune, too much fame. NBA economics and NBA culture could not sustain so many phenoms in one place at one time.

We want to blame the Thunder for not offering Harden more. Want to blame Harden for not sacrificing.

But now we know. The Thunder offered more than it could afford. Harden already had sacrificed more than a reasonable mind could expect.

This was a parting that had to be. The Thunder has flourished without Harden. Harden has flourished without the Thunder.

“I think everybody's over it now,” Nick Collison said of the October trade that slapped Boomtown upside the head. “He's going to probably play against the Thunder 40 more times in his career, so eventually everyone's going to have to get over it.”

Six months clear of the trade has brought clarity.

The Thunder's four-year, $53-million offer to Harden was temporary salve. No way could the Thunder have afforded to pay their Four Tops a combined $59 million next season and $61 million in 2014-15.

Fear the Beard? Fear the Beard's salary.

A Thunder source told me that the final offer to Harden was just a way to keep the remarkable quartet together for another year or two, but NBA luxury taxes would have demanded that someone go. And the trade requirements on someone making that much money would have meant the Thunder would not have received a package close to the value of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a plum Toronto draft pick.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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