James Harden Rolling: So Much for the Kardashian Curse

James Harden expressing what sports fans should be feeling.
James Harden expressing what sports fans should be feeling.

From Jessica Simpson making Tony Romo do stupid things on the field — as if he needed any help — to the fear of a JJ Watt relationship and how it might affect his defensive prowess, the TMZ-driven world of sports is as confounding as it is, at times, infuriating. How these things gain any credence is hard to imagine.

While the Rockets were in the midst of the worst set of losses to open an NBA season — three straight by 20 points — and James Harden, fresh off his MVP-runner up campaign was struggling to find his shot, the Internet was in full on speculation mode. Never mind the team, what was wrong with Harden? 

Immediately, eyes were turned in the direction of Khloe Kardashian, Harden's alleged girlfriend. Kardashian — reality star, sister to Kim and sister-in-law to Kanye West — has been engulfed in the scandal surrounding her estranged husband, former NBA star and reality show cohort Lamar Odom, who was found unresponsive at the Love Ranch in Nevada, a house of prostitution that, thanks to Odom, has managed to single handedly revive the term "brothel."

This is the sort of sordid affair tailor made for Internet gossip outlets and did they ever go all hands on deck when the photos of Odom surfaced face down at the Ranch. Because of the number of clicks those stories bring, major media outlets too spent more than a cursory amount of time fixated on Odom and, eventually, Khloe. It wasn't long before the next big question came from E!, Gawker and other culture vultures: If Khloe is rushing to Lamar's side, what about James?

The fact that she was spotted at the Toyota Center for the first couple games of the season only fueled the rumor mill and made many seemingly normal people come to the completely irrational conclusion that Harden's early season slump was Kardashian's fault, a curse that she and her siren sisters had visited upon other unsuspecting victims in the past, apparently.

Fans were already uncomfortable with Harden's summer fling and affiliation with reality's first family, so adding a rough start to the season only made things worse for Rockets enthusiasts who find the Kardashians only slightly less objectionable than the Dallas Mavericks.

But a funny thing happened during Harden's accursed downward spiral: he rebounded. In the last two games, the Rockets shooting guard went off for 43 and 46 points, the first time a Rockets player has scored 43 or more points in back-to-back games since the 1981-82 season when Moses Malone did it in three straight games. Meanwhile, the Rockets have won four in a row including victories over two heated conference rivals the Thunder and Clippers.

So much for that Kardashian Curse.

What is so bothersome about such nonsense is the ham-fisted "analysis," that did a far better job of acting as click bait than it did discussing the real issues the Rockets have on the floor. It couldn't have been that Dwight Howard missed two of the games (one for a suspension carrying over from last year's playoffs and one designed to rest him during back-to-back games) or that newly-acquired guard Ty Lawson, meant to carry at least a modicum of the ball handling burdens, had barely any time in training camp to gel with his new teammates. It wasn't the rash of injuries that kept numerous players out of the preseason and the first handful of regular season games or the rather tough opening schedule.

No, clearly this was all Khloe.

Why writers and talking heads stoop to such banal approaches when there are plenty of meaty sports topics to be covered makes them as objectionable as the reality show writers and gossip columnists they claim are ruining society, never mind athletics. Perhaps worse considering they spend nearly as much time decrying the practice as they do copying it.

It is also incredibly insulting to the players and disrespectful of the cautious distance we all should keep between an athlete's life in the arena and the one at home. Sure, Harden doesn't help himself by playfully appearing with members of the Kardashian clan on Instagram or mugging for the camera while partying outside an LA nightclub, but he can do what he wants when he is on vacation, especially given the load he has carried for the Rockets the last two seasons.

And, frankly, it is more than a glancing blow to Khloe Kardashian, who is facing the continued hardship of a loved one with serious addiction issues — never mind Odom, a world class talent struggling with life after basketball. Sure, most people don't care about what happens to a fame hungry group like the Kardashians, who seem to be willing to parade every family ignominy in front of an increasingly rumor obsessed public.

But we should care about the truth. And the truth is that Harden is the same great player who nearly won MVP last season and carried an injury-plagued Rockets team to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1997. He had a few bad games and, like all the greats do, he bounced back. For fans and those concerned with sports, these should be the only things that matter. 

Still, as long as there is some kind of relationship between the Rockets' best player and a reality star, inquiring minds will want to know. But, no self respecting sports fan should be among them.


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