Sometimes, you don’t realize what you’ve got until you don’t have it.

In the case if the Oklahoma City Thunder, that’s exactly the nature of their reality when you realize just how much they had. Back in 2011 (when the team lost in the NBA Finals), OKC had Westbrook, Durant, and James Harden… a trio we now know would be pretty deadly today. Judging by the present situation of things, it appears as if all three former teammates will have won an MVP over a span of 5 years. No doubt, the Thunder ripped apart what could have really been something special. And in a recent chat with GQ, Harden revealed that he still thinks about that squad.

Harden went third in the draft to Oklahoma City, joining Westbrook and Kevin Durant to complete the most beloved nucleus of young NBA talent since Shaq and Penny.

But like Shaq and Penny in Orlando, the Thunder came up short in their one trip to the Finals and got too expensive before they could get back there. In 2012, Oklahoma City shocked the league by trading Harden to Houston, at once ending the Thunder trio and immortalizing it. By this summer, all three should have MVP awards; two of them wouldn’t if the Thunder had stayed together.

And yet Harden says he still thinks about that team every day. “It was the perfect puzzle,” he tells me, reliving the end for the thousandth time. “How do you give that up? How do you let that go?”

The answer to Harden’s question? You don’t.

Nobody will get the chance to know what that Thunder team may have looked like if they managed to stay together all these years. And for Harden, that’s got to linger.

But, in Houston, he’s gotten a good opportunity to start fresh and forge his own legacy. So far, he’s doing a great job… and that’s all anyone can really ask for, right?

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