When the young Oklahoma City Thunder trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lost in the 2012 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat, the group’s legacy became one of the biggest what-ifs in league history.
Now, with each of those players in their primes, the question of whether they could have won a title in OKC is still being asked.
Harden and Westbrook, who star as the Houston Rockets backcourt, recently did a joint interview with GQ’s Mark Anthony Green. Harden said the Thunder could have won a championship if he wasn’t traded to the Rockets in 2012.
“My third year we lost in the Finals,” Harden said in the GQ interview. “And we just came off USA Basketball, won a gold medal. It was destined. But (expletive) happens.”
The trio of Harden, Durant and Westbrook was one of the most electric, dynamic Big 3s in the league at the time. When the Thunder lost in the Finals, neither player was even 25 years old.
In each of the three seasons Harden played in OKC, the Thunder lost to the eventual champions in the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Heat.
While the group was good together, perhaps the split helped them become better individually. Westbrook and Durant played four more seasons together in OKC before Durant joined the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Durant, who’s now on the Brooklyn Nets, won the MVP in 2014. He won two championships with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018.
After Durant left, Westbrook had three of the best individual seasons in league history. He averaged a triple-double in three straight seasons and is the only player besides Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for a season.
Harden and Westbrook will start the last portion of the season Thursday as the Rockets will play the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center.