Votes for NBA MVP were due back in April, but someone might wanna ask any James Harden voters out there to show their receipts following Houston’s embarrassing, season-ending, 39-point loss to the Spurs last night.
It was the worst possible game at the worst possible time for the Rockets star – he passed up open looks, threw away passes, had three times as many turnovers (6) as made shots (2), and didn’t even take his first shot attempt until halfway through the second quarter. The one-time MVP contender spent the majority of the game looking lost out on the court, and getting viciously dragged all over Twitter.
Rockets fans: James Harden the real MVP!!!
Me: jAmeS hArDEn tHe reAL mVp!!! pic.twitter.com/EaUoGPLBak
— Legends (@LegendsofCH) May 12, 2017
Kawhi Leonard is having a better game than James Harden and Kawhi isn't even playing
— Russell TripDubBrook (@Jhickness9) May 12, 2017
Rockets: "Hey James Harden. We need a big game from you tonight."
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 12, 2017
After the game, Harden offered no real explanation for what in the name of James Naismith we all just witnessed. But it’s 2017, so theories abound on the Internet, ranging from the unimaginative – he choked! – to the certifiable, tinfoil hat-variety – he was drugged! – and we’ve ranked them all below, from most to least plausible.
The Spurs had him solved.
Evidence For: Gregg Popovich is a HOF coach, an all-time great tactician, and after six games, maybe the Spurs finally came up with the perfect gameplan to neutralize the Rockets’ superstar guard.
Evidence Against: Maybe the infamously taciturn coach was just playing it close to the vest, but even Pop was reportedly at a loss for words after the game.
Plausibility: For Harden’s sake? High.
Evidence For: Harden has been nursing an injured ankle for most of the season. He played through a wrist injury last month, hurt his hip in Game 2, and has been fighting a lingering cold since April.
Evidence Against: It’s the playoffs. Literally everyone is banged up in the playoffs. Plus, Harden’s ankle/hips/wrist looked just fine at the club after the game.
Plausibility: More likely than not.
Harden just got worn down.
Evidence For: The Beard turned in the best year of his career during the regular season, averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game. But those numbers also started to tail off at the end of the year and into the postseason.
Evidence Against: Harden only averaged 36.4 minutes per game this year, his lowest total since the 2011-2012 season. Also, dude’s only 27, not 37.
Plausibility: Sure, I guess.
He had a concussion.
Evidence For: This one started gaining traction as soon as Harden came out of the gate looking sluggish after taking an elbow to the head at the end of Game 5. Harden didn’t just throw away the ball last night, he looked like he momentarily forgot what a basketball even was.
Evidence Against: In this day and age, given everything we know about the seriousness of head injuries, is it really possible for an athlete and/or coaching staff to hide a concussion for two whole days? Actually, on second thought…
Plausibility: I can buy it.
Harden is cursed.
Evidence For: Lil B first claimed to have cursed Harden back in 2015, and since then, the Based God has been taking credit for every one of Harden’s less-than-stellar playoff performances. This time though, Harden was so bad, Lil B even formally apologized.
Evidence Against: None. This one totally checks out.
Plausibility: Well, he was cursed… And even if no one else believes in it, maybe Harden does.
There was some kind of a Freaky Friday body swap before the game.
Evidence For: MVP candidates do not typically suddenly begin playing like the worst guy at your weekly pickup game.
Evidence Against: This isn’t a high-concept Hollywood comedy. (Yet.) And as far as we know, Harden didn’t make a simultaneous wish with some dude in a Harden jersey, or pee in a magic fountain, or accidentally touch some magic talisman before Game 6.
Plausibility: It’s not un-possible.
Harden had his game stolen by the Monstars.
Evidence Against: That was a kids’ movie. From 1996. Also, LeBron hasn’t started filming Space Jam 2 yet, right? …Right?
Plausibility: I mean… Let’s not rule this one out just yet.
Harden had money on the game.
Evidence For: The first two autofill suggestions when you search for Harden on Twitter? “Harden concussion” and “Harden points shaving.” NBA fans (and Ayesha Curry) have long maintained that basketball’s biggest games are rigged, and Harden passing up seemingly wide-open shots had many crying foul.
Evidence Against: Harden’s salary is $28.3 million in 2017 alone. But more importantly, the Spurs were only favoured to win by 9, not 39. This wasn’t just one bad call or one hinky shot. It was an entire damn game.
Plausibility: Yeah, no. Sorry, NBA truthers.
He was drugged.
Evidence Against: Stephen A. Smith said it.
Plausibility: About as likely as one of Smith’s Finals predictions.
Marcus Morris subbed in for him.
Evidence For: OK, hear me out – there were already conspiracy theories floating around that Marcus subbed in for his twin brother Markieff during the Wizards/Celtics series, so there is precedent here. Also, both Morris and Harden have beards.
Evidence Against: Morris is 6’9”. Harden is 6’5”. Also, beards aside, they look nothing alike.
Plausibility: There’s at least a nonzero chance.
Harden’s just not actually that good.
Evidence For: One bad game.
Evidence Against: An entire seven-year career.