The evolution of the James Harden-Giannis Antetokounmpo feud

The Houston Rockets‘ official Twitter account took what might be thought of the primary jab within the beef between two of the NBA’s greatest superstars seconds after Giannis Antetokounmpo was introduced because the league’s 2018-19 MVP.

James Harden completed because the runner-up for the third time in 5 seasons, which did not sit proper with the Rockets group. The tweet has since been deleted however was actually up lengthy sufficient to ship a message.

“Congrats to the MVP, however we respectfully disagree,” the tweet learn earlier than rattling off a number of bullet factors making a case that Harden ought to have been the repeat winner, resembling that he was the primary participant in NBA historical past to common not less than 35 factors and 7 assists per recreation for a full season.

It’s normal for franchises to foyer for his or her stars to obtain postseason honors. However the timing of this tweet — as first-time winner Antetokounmpo was making his acceptance speech — was perceived by many across the league as poor kind, a disrespectful show of bitter grapes.

“The Beard” and “The Greek Freak” have exchanged a handful of jabs since, some direct photographs, others extra refined.

As Harden’s Rockets put together to face Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks within the bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), stand up to hurry on the pokes between the perennial MVP candidates over the previous 12 months.

“I went on the market and did what I used to be speculated to do at a excessive stage. There’s only some different seasons that anyone has ever executed that earlier than. Individuals have been tuned into what number of factors I used to be going to attain the subsequent recreation. It was a factor. However I am unable to management that.”

James Harden

Harden, making an August 2019 look on Houston hip hop station 97.9 The Field to advertise his annual JH-City Weekend charity occasions, readily agreed when one of many hosts declared that “politics” decided the MVP winner.

The implication appears to be that Antetokounmpo wasn’t deserving of the consideration, which he gained by receiving 78 of the 101 first-place votes, regardless of a historic stat line (averages of 27.7 factors, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.three steals) to guide the Bucks to the NBA’s greatest report.

There is a precedent for the Rockets complaining concerning the “narrative” figuring out the MVP winner when Harden completed second within the voting. It additionally occurred after the 2016-17 award went to Russell Westbrook within the case of the then-Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder level guard becoming a member of Oscar Robertson as the one gamers in NBA historical past to common a triple-double for the season.

After all, that did not forestall the Rockets from pumping up Westbrook as a current MVP after they pulled the set off on a blockbuster commerce to accumulate him final summer season.

It isn’t clear why precisely the narrative would have shifted to favor Harden in 2018-19, when he gained the MVP in a landslide, getting 86 of 101 first-place votes. It is also exhausting to construct a case that the poll is biased in opposition to Harden when he has obtained extra factors in MVP voting over the previous 5 years than anybody.

However Harden doubled down in an interview with GQ weeks after his radio look when requested if a story had been already fashioned for this season’s MVP race.

“Nah, it hasn’t occurred but, it is too early,” Harden stated. “Wait till the preseason and when the common season begins up once more. However they [the media] for positive bought some groups they locked in on. Everyone knows. That is simply what it’s.

“You’ll be able to’t inform me {that a} man whose staff was a 14-seed at one level final 12 months, and ended up a 4-seed with the whole lot that was occurring — so many accidents — and who went on a 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point video games, two 60-point video games in a single season … and all of the discuss was about [Antetokounmpo]?

“There is not any means.”

“It is me. I can get any shot I need to.”

James Harden

This was Harden’s rationalization for why he struggled in a season-opening residence loss to the Bucks, ending with 19 factors on 2-of-13 taking pictures.

Harden persistently declines to credit score the opposing protection for inflicting him issues after an off night time, by no means wavering in his confidence that he can create his shot whatever the defenders or schemes that he encounters.

But it surely’d be comprehensible if Antetokounmpo — not often if ever the first defender on Harden however a dominant drive in a assist position — and the Bucks believed that their No. 1-ranked protection was due some credit score. In spite of everything, they held Harden to 23 factors on 26 area objective makes an attempt of their earlier assembly, a convincing win by the Bucks in late March that may have influenced some MVP ballots.

“I would like anyone that is going to cross the ball.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Credit score TNT’s Charles Barkley for the help in upsetting Antetokounmpo into blurting a headline-making rationalization for passing on Harden when choosing his All-Star staff.

“What, you don’t need The Dribbler?” Barkley requested, interrupting when Antetokounmpo stated he was deciding between Trae Younger and Kemba Walker when Harden was the one different starter out there, prompting a chuckle from fellow captain, Los Angeles Lakers celebrity LeBron James.



Giannis Antetokounmpo is torn between selecting Kemba Walker or Trae Younger, and when Charles Barkley jokingly suggests James Harden, Giannis offers a enjoyable jab in the course of the NBA All-Star draft.

Antetokounmpo selected Walker, a range that did not fairly match his acknowledged standards. Harden averages 2.5 extra assists per recreation than Walker this season. Walker’s career-best assists common was 6.1 per recreation in 2013-14, and Harden has averaged not less than that many dimes previously seven seasons, together with when he gained the assists title with 11.2 per recreation in 2016-17.

Antetokounmpo, for what it is price, has by no means averaged not less than six assists in a season.

“Offensively, we have been simply looking for whoever James Harden was guarding. That is who we thought we would have the chance to attain on.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo

In contrast to in the course of the All-Star Sport draft, no person provoked this swipe at Harden. It was Antetokoumpo’s reply to a bland query about his staff’s strategy down the stretch of the All-Star Sport.

That swipe wasn’t precisely supported by the details. Group Giannis, which had extra turnovers (seven) than area targets (5-of-19) within the fourth quarter whereas blowing a nine-point lead, tried solely two photographs within the body wherein Harden was the first defender. Neither of these photographs was good.

Not that merely focusing on Harden on protection is a sound technique. There is a narrative that Harden is a notoriously poor defender, however the numbers do not again that up.

Harden has established himself as an elite submit defender. In accordance with NBA Superior Stats, Harden ranks within the 90th percentile this season by giving up solely 0.65 factors per post-up regardless of being the league’s most focused participant in these conditions (107 possessions). He has graded as a mean isolation defender this season, rating within the 50th percentile by giving up 0.89 factors per possession.

“I want I may simply be 7 ft and run and simply dunk. Like, that takes no ability in any respect. I’ve bought to really learn to play basketball and have ability, you understand? I am going to take that any day.”

James Harden

This was the meat of Harden’s response to Antetokounmpo’s punchline about his passing when ESPN’s Rachel Nichols broached the topic throughout a 1-on-1 interview at All-Star Weekend.

Nonetheless, simply as Antetokounmpo was off track together with his disses of Harden’s recreation, it is exhausting to say this criticism by Harden relies in actuality. It is uncommon to discover a near-7-footer with such top-level athleticism, although there have been a number of who’ve performed within the NBA.



Stephen A. Smith agrees with James Harden’s response to Giannis Antetokounmpo saying he wished to draft a participant who passes the ball.

However Antetokounmpo is the one participant who suits that description that has thrived as his staff’s main facilitator. Certain, his leap shot is a piece in progress. However Antetokounmpo is actually a talented ball handler, particularly for a participant his dimension.

Has there ever been a participant that dimension who created most of his personal dunks off the dribble?

“There hasn’t been a forwards and backwards. I am not that sort of man. I’ve by no means tried to take stabs at anyone. Perhaps generally it’d come out like that, however I am positively not. … If that is what [Harden] believes, that is what he believes.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Maybe Antetokounmpo’s ability set consists of appearing, as a result of these feedback in a late February interview with ESPN show he can actually play coy.

These got here within the wake of Antetokounmpo taking stabs at two topics which can be delicate to Harden: the notion that the Rockets star is a ball hog and that he is a dreadful defender. Did Antetokounmpo actually count on anybody to imagine these have been unintended?

“I’ve bought to go along with James Harden.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo paused for a number of seconds when requested throughout an Instagram Reside Q&A in late March which NBA participant was most troublesome to protect. After fastidiously contemplating it, he replied with the participant who’s en path to his third consecutive NBA scoring title.

Perhaps this digital olive department ends the back-and-forth beef between the league’s final two MVPs. Or perhaps the Bucks and Rockets’ subsequent assembly may ignite one other spherical contained in the bubble.

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