James Harden's MVP highlights the 'what-ifs' for both Houston and OKC

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The iconic third-quarter 8-0 run and eventual comeback win against the Lakers is now a piece of Thunder lore, showcasing a bit of each player's personality and skill -- a ferocious Russell Westbrook poster, a smooth James Harden 3-pointer off the catch and a now-famous dagger Kevin Durant pull-up jumper -- a moment placed in a time capsule to remember simpler times.

It was the first-ever postseason game in Oklahoma City, a chaotic energy in the arena translating into tension on the court, with the game becoming more of a civic awakening than a competition. It was an inexperienced team playing a playoff institution, a small-market duckling sending a message to one of the mightiest of the mighty big markets.official nfl jerseys cheap

There was a purity and innocence to it all, with all three young stars oblivious to what was eventually ahead.83

Two years later that moment segued into another enduring image, with the Thunder's three stars standing on the sideline together in Miami as the Heat eliminated them in a five-game NBA Finals. Harden was in the middle, an arm around Durant and Westbrook each, watching the seconds tick away as LeBron James celebrated his first title. The trio never played another game together.

Harden was traded before the beginning of the next season and Durant left through free agency in 2016 -- and now they each stand apart, their arms around their own franchises, with Harden joining Durant and Westbrook as MVP winners.

The original OKC big three exist only in the NBA afterlife, tucked away in the great vault of what-ifs, all realizing their full individual potential while disconnected from the others.

Gripping those two trophies are the only moments missing from Harden's resume as an NBA legend now. And that makes his first MVP campaign somewhat authentic jerseys cheap

"This is our year," Harden told ESPN's Shelley Smith midway through the season, firmly believing that the Rockets would dethrone the Warriors dynasty during the playoffs.

That came so painfully close to happening. The Rockets had the Warriors on the ropes in the Western Conference finals -- even after Chris Paul, the co-star Harden recruited to Houston, suffered a series-ending hamstring strain in the final minute of a Game 5 victory that put Golden State on the brink of elimination.

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