James Harden blames media narrative for MVP loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo

You’ll be shocked to hear this, but a member of the Houston Rockets organization thinks people don’t properly appreciate James Harden.

In the past, there was the Rockets’ official Twitter pulling a Kanye West and whipping out stats after Harden lost last season’s MVP award to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then there was Rockets general manager Daryl Morey casually saying Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan.

Now, we’ve got the man himself quibbling with his MVP loss.

James Harden has a theory about why he lost MVP

During an interview on Houston-area radio station 97.9 The Box, the topic of Harden’s historic season last year came up. After some prodding from the host, Harden began discussing the MVP race and his public perception.

Harden’s biggest point of grief: a media narrative that formed around him.

The discussion begins around the 6:08 mark in the video below.

The full transcript of the exchange:

Host: I know you won’t say it, but I’m going to say it. I was pissed off when the MVP went down. I swear to god, I turned my TV off and I said ‘It’s politics, man.’ I know you probably don’t get involved, man I was hot.

Harden: Nah, but I think the same way you think.

Host: This man just had a historic year.

Harden: One for the books. Even when I’m gone, they’re going to talk about it.

Host: Did you get hot? Were you mad?

Harden: It’s out of my control. I think once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year. I think they just take the narrative and run with it the entire year. I don’t want to get into any details, but all I can do is control what I can do. I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level, you know what I’m saying? A few seasons where anybody’s ever done that before.

Harden doesn’t specify what exact narrative cost him the MVP, but the Rockets superstar isn’t lacking for possibilities. They could include criticisms of Harden as a ref-dependent volume scorer, Harden being considered the NBA equivalent of a system quarterback and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks quickly establishing themselves as the East’s biggest upstart.

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James Harden through his career
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James Harden through his career
Apr 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) goes to the basket and scores against Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) and center Jonas Valanciunas (17) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK - JUNE 25: James Harden poses for a portrait prior to the 2009 NBA Draft on June 25, 2009 at the WaMu Theatre in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden reacts after committing a foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 3 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series in Oklahoma City, April 22, 2010. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook (L) and James Harden watch the action against the Dallas Mavericks during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Final basketball playoffs in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, May 21, 2011. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (L) and James Harden celebrate against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Final basketball playoff in Dallas, Texas May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Oklahoma City Thunder's James Harden (13) dunks the ball guarded by Los Angeles Lakers' Jordan Hill (27) as the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final playoffs series in Oklahoma City, May 14, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Smith/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (R), guard James Harden and injured player Eric Maynor (L) celebrate after their team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Sisney (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson tries to block a shot by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (L) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto December 16, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Cassese (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Houston Rockets James Harden (L) drives to the basket past Los Angeles Lakers Darius Morris during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles April 17, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Houston Rockets guard James Harden takes a defensive position against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Feb 14, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Western Conference guard James Harden during the 2014 NBA All Star game Player Press Conferences at New Orleans Hyatt. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden of the U.S. goes for a basket over Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica during their Basketball World Cup final game in Madrid September 14, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Nov 2, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the third quarter at Toyota Center. Rocket won 110 to 105. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) defends in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) is embraced from behind by Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) following Houston's 121-114 victory against the Charlotte Hornets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 109-103. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) controls the ball during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts in the three-point contest during NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Western Conference guard James Harden of the Houston Rockets (13) laughs with Western Conference guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (30) during the NBA All-Star Practice at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles against the Denver Nuggets in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets brings the ball up court during the game against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 11, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets talks with the press after the game against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 11, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Of course, this argument would hold a lot more water had Harden not just won MVP the previous year. Not to mention that he received endless coverage during the season for his absurd 30-point streak. This might be crazy to hear for some members of the Rockets organization, but maybe, just maybe, Antetokounmpo — the hyper-efficient, paint-dominating Defensive Player of the Year finalist — was just really good?

After complaining about the media narrative undermining him, Harden and the host then discussed ... how much the media covered his historic scoring streak.

Host: Every night on ESPN, we’re saying he just did this record, he did this record, 30 in a row ...

Harden: People were tuned into how many points that I was going to score in the next game. It was a theme. I can’t control that, the only thing I can control is coming back next year, be better than I was, winning the ‘ship.

There’s no doubting Harden’s place in history as a great scorer. His 36.1 points per game last year was the highest total of any player in NBA history not named Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. He, alongside Stephen Curry, has helped shape the modern game into what it is today.

However, that reputation, or any other narrative, didn’t unfairly give the MVP to Antetokounmpo, which is what anyone insinuates when doubting last year’s awards race.

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