The Beard was gone: An oral history of the James Harden trade

Players, coaches, fans and others look back at the night that changed the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets franchises.
by Berry Tramel and Jenni Carlson and Darnell Mayberry Published: April 20, 2013

Last Oct. 27, between 9-10 p.m., news broke that the Thunder had traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets.

Some Oklahomans were having dinner, some were watching OU and Notre Dame play a football game of some note and some were all snuggled in at home.

We talked to a variety of people about where they were and what they felt when they heard the news about the trade that changed two franchises.

Nick Collison, Thunder forward:

“I was at dinner and found out from somebody who saw it on Twitter. I think I got a text from the team and then it was on ESPN all within like five minutes. It was a little bit of a shock. I think we knew it was a possibility, with contract situations and things like that. But it's part of the business. It's happened before.

“I went over there after the trade just to talk to him, see how he was doing. He's a good friend of mine and he had been a teammate for a long time. The same with Cole (Aldrich) and Daequan (Cook) and Lazar (Hayward). It was more of just a personal friendship thing knowing he was going to be somewhere else. So I just went to see how he was doing and wish him luck and that's about what it was.

“He was doing well. I think everyone is kind of shocked when things happen like that. But he was ready to go and ready to move on, I guess.”

Skip Bayless, ESPN's First Take host and Northwest Classen High School graduate:

“I remember it all too well. Sitting in my living room in New York City, double nightmare for me, because I had a couple of dinner bets on my Oklahoma Sooners, and I was extremely confident they could handle Notre Dame. And I had a public pride bet with (Notre Dame basketball player) Skylar Diggins, who had been on our show, and I had trash-talked her, backed her into a corner. I had to eat that crow on Twitter after the game.

“I was dumbfounded when I looked down and saw on my computer, as my Sooners were going down 30-13. Saw the headline (Harden traded), and I was dumbfounded.

“I could not believe that dynasty-in-the-making was no more. I was just so convinced that the Thunder was poised to win multiple championships, poised to do their ‘Not three, not four, not five.'

“It was hard to get it through my head that it appeared that they had decided he was not worth the luxury tax dollars they would have to pay. I just could not believe it. I loved James Harden.

“That was a double nightmare. Seemed like they had broken up the big four. I don't know. Sam Presti's a smart guy. Maybe in the long run, they will prove they knew what they were doing. I still haven't quite recovered from the Sooners in that game. I just really felt confident about that game.”

Jim Paris, owner of Paris Limousine Service in Oklahoma City, who frequently drove Harden:

“I had knowledge of it ahead of time. But I didn't know it was going to happen. I think it happened at 9:15 (p.m.). And it happened so fast. I got called at 3 o'clock in the morning to take James and the others to the airport.

“I was shocked that they couldn't work out a deal. I'll be honest with you, even the parents were shocked, that it went down that fast and that quick.

“I was really shocked. I didn't think it would happen that way. I thought it would come down to the end of the season.”

Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder defensive whiz:

“I was home. I wasn't expecting it at all. And I got a phone call saying James was traded. It was just a surprise for me to hear that. I wasn't expecting it to at least be that early in the season. It's tough to see guys that you bond with and were your teammate for a long time go away. But we had to move on.”

Sam Hinkie, Rockets assistant general manager and Marlow High School graduate:

“We were excited to say the least. It was the kind of thing we felt like we had been preparing a long time for, but also the kind of thing that's unexpected until it happens. To get a player like him is a longshot. But we had been trying to get a player like him for quite some time. When that came to fruition, we were really excited.

“He's the rare player that you get a chance to bring onto your team. Daryl (Morey, Rockets' general manager) said at the press conference, a foundational player, so good and so young.

Continue reading this story on the...

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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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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