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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

“A lot of my job is to temper expectations at a time like that, as we go about building something not only lasting, but something we're excited about. We were confident in things.”

Scott Brooks, Thunder coach:

“I was definitely at the football game versus, what was it, Notre Dame? I had a feeling that it potentially could happen. But when it happened I wished James well and I welcomed our new players. It was simple as that. That's part of the business. You've been around it long enough and I had been in that position, traded and released, so I understand that that's part of it. The quicker you move on without being cold to the situation, you have to move on.”

Mike Brooks, OU football historian and Thunder fan:

“I don't know if it was the worst thing that happened in that fourth quarter or the second-worst. We fought back and tied it, then it was downhill from there. Somewhere in that downhill slide, we heard Harden was traded.

“I was in total disbelief. He's my favorite player. It was a gloomy night at Owens Field. That's where I was. Kind of like piling on.

“I was in disbelief about Harden, the player that he was. Turns out, he was every bit the player we thought he was. At the same time, the Sooners were going down with a dud. They (Notre Dame) scored three tines after Harden was traded. That kind of sums it up. Tough to be a Harden and Sooner fan that night.”

Chandler Parsons, Rockets forward:

“I was in Orlando, with my friends who are big basketball fans, and I thought it was huge. I'm very close with the front office staff and the management, so I was talking to Daryl (Morey) and Gersson (Rosas) about what kind of moves we were thinking about making. So I kind of was in the loop a little bit and had an idea.

“But I remember I was at home in Orlando and I was just very excited to be able to match up with a player of James' caliber.”

Greg Johnson, a Norman resident and OU season ticket holder:

“There were a few peeps around halftime, but everyone in the area around me brushed it off as rumor. Why would we trade Harden? Then, we all started to get texts from friends and family outside of the stadium who were watching the game on TV telling us about the trade.

“It didn't become official to me until it popped up on my ScoreCenter app right near the end of the game. Notre Dame was putting the finishing touches on Oklahoma, and the coup de grace was the Harden trade information.

“My phone was still skittish during the walk home and I didn't see the information about Martin, Lamb and the other picks until much later. I felt much, much better after seeing the ransom we got for Harden, but that walk home was tough.

“I was in a pretty sour mood because of the Sooners' game, and trading Harden was just piling on.

“On the walk home the trade was the only thing people were talking about. No one wanted to think about losing to Notre Dame, so we did what good Oklahoma fans do and talked about something else."

Patrick Shannon, 22-year-old Thunder fan living in Tulsa:

“I was watching my Cornhuskers beat Michigan in a very important game when I found out. Nebraska had the game in hand when all of a sudden, the bottom line on ESPN read, 'Breaking news: OKC Thunder has agreed to trade James Harden to the Houston Rockets.' Totally ruined my night. Suddenly, I didn't even care about Nebraska winning.

“I was sad and shocked that The Beard was gone.”

Fran Blinebury, nba.com writer and Greater Houston resident:

“My wife and I were at a Cajun restaurant with friends, eating crawfish and watching the Oklahoma-Notre Dame game on the big screen. Not close enough to read the news crawler at the bottom of the screen.

“As we left, I checked email and was, well, thunderstruck. I had written a column a few days earlier saying that at that point, so close to the season, there was no urgency made for Sam Presti to deal Harden at least til the trade deadline.

“First thought: never saw that coming. Second thought: he threw (Rockets general manager) Daryl Morey and the Rockets a lifeline to get out of perpetual mediocrity.”

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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