James Harden’s recent comments to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols about reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo have gone viral, which stems the question, when did The Beard and The Greek Freak start beefing?
The timeline isn’t all that long, so let’s revisit it and see how this piece of meat came alive.
June 24, 2019: Giannis Antetokounmpo is named MVP
Many expected the Most Valuable Player race to be a close one. Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks had the league’s best record at 60 wins and when it came to the voting, it wasn’t as close as many suggested.
Antetokounmpo received 78 first-place votes, well ahead of the 23 first-place votes Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, received in the final tally.
The Rockets star wasn’t happy about the decision. In fact, many in the organization denounced it, noting Harden was deserving of the award.
Aug. 22, 2019: Harden speaks out about MVP snub
After a long offseason and deciding not to take part in Team USA’s quest for gold in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Harden finally spoke out about his snub, telling local radio 97.9 The Box he lost due to a media-created narrative:
“I think once the media creates a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and run with it the entire year,” said Harden, who put up a whopping 36.1 points per game to lead the NBA in scoring for the second straight year.
The narrative about Harden has long been that he’s a player who cares about his scoring numbers and his rebounds and assists are just a byproduct of his high usage. While there is some level of truth in that, it doesn’t completely encompass who Harden is as a player and how valuable he is to the Rockets.
Oct. 18, 2019: That’s just, like, your opinion, man
To borrow from the popular cult classic film The Great Lebowski: “Yeah, well, y’know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Antetokounmpo briefly discussed those who thought Harden was robbed of a chance to get a second consecutive MVP.
“That’s their opinion,” Antetokounmpo told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “They’re gonna have James’ back. I’m never gonna say I’m better than James.”
Antetokounmpo wasn’t rude by any means, but he was unapologetic about winning this MVP award:
“The trophy is in my house,” he said.
Feb. 6, 2020: “I want somebody who’s gonna pass the ball.”
At the time of the All-Star Draft, team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo knew he wasn’t about to pick James Harden, even admitting he was deciding between Kemba Walker, Trae Young and Harden — with the latter likely clear choice among the three starters still left on the board. That resulted the following exchange.
Antetokounmpo: “This is a tough one. I’m between Kemba and Trae Young.”
Charles Barkley: “Wait, you don’t want the dribbler? (laughs)”
Antetokounmpo: “(Laughs) I want somebody who’s gonna pass the ball, that’s who I want — (everyone laughs) — So I’m gonna go with the crossover killer, step-back master, Kemba Walker.”
Giannis might be the worst Fantasy Basketball player of all-time by the way he made his picks, but he surely stuck to his guts on this decision.
Feb. 16, 2020: Let the games begin
Harden would strike first during the All-Star Game, covering his head from this Giannis Antetokounmpo airball.
Giannis also nearly elbowed Harden during the game, which sparked some controversy.
Feb. 16, 2020: Post-game: “We went with whoever James Harden was guarding”
Despite a narrow two-point loss in the All-Star Game, Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed his team’s strategy down the stretch, singling out James Harden as the weakest defender on the floor.
“Offensively, we went with whoever James Harden was guarding,” said Antetokounmpo after the game. “That’s who we thought we’d have an opportunity to score on.”
The Greek Freak provided us with the only thing missing from the All-Star Game after a great show on the court — some off the court drama.
Feb. 23, 2020: Does Giannis have beef with James Harden? An ESPN investigation.
“These two guys got smoke. Giannis and James Harden,” said former NBA player Kendrick Perkins during a post-game edition of Hoop Streams.
Perkins isn’t the most reliable source of news, but he’s basically recapitulating a few of the storylines already shared.
Feb. 28, 2020: “[Dunking] takes no skill at all.”
There’s no one better at digging past comments and bringing them up in interviews than Rachel Nichols. She’s made a career out of her attention to detail and this is why her interviews are often can’t miss material. During this short clip, she asks Harden his thoughts on Giannis picking Kemba Walker over him during the All-Star Draft:
“I average more assists him than him, I think,” said Harden of Walker. “I don’t see what the joke is.
“I didn’t even see [the All-Star Draft]. I don’t pay attention to stuff like that. I just know none of them can mess with me (laughs).”
If that wasn’t enough, The Beard also took a fully-packed haymaker at Antetokounmpo once Nichols brought up a quote from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey praising Harden as a historic scorer: “being different doesn’t really get appreciated until it works.”
“When it’s all said and done, they will appreciate it more,” said Harden. “But I wish I could just run and be 7 feet and just dunk. Like that takes no skill at all (laughs).
“I had to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill, you know? I’ll take that any day.”
While it was obscure at first, this is a clear shot at the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo, who makes his living in the paint and has yet to develop a consistent outside shot.
The Beard could be once again in the running for the Most Valuable Player award, with the Greek Freak sure to be part of that race, making this juicy beef all the more interesting to keep an eye on.