James Harden's Ballsy Kick

James Harden's ballsy kick to LeBron James' privates swings MVP: No Jeremy Lin help, big win cements truths

James Harden's ballsy kick to LeBron James' privates swings NBA MVP

LeBron James LeBron James tussle
James Harden and LeBron James went at it all game — kicks to the groin, stifling defense and missed free throws included.  Photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images
Patrick Beverley Rockets
Patrick Beverley went back to his ultra annoying ways, which enraged LeBron James and delighted the Rockets. Footbasket.com
James Harden arms up
Kick to the balls aside, James Harden showed he is this season's NBA MVP in the LeBron showdown. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
LeBron James LeBron James tussle
Patrick Beverley Rockets
James Harden arms up

It's the kick heard around the NBA, a shot to the groin from one MVP Favorite to another. For a moment amid the delicious din of the Toyota Center, James Harden goes Ndamukong Suh, clearly deliberately kicking out at LeBron James' private parts.

LeBron is no Matt Schaub. He's not going to just take that. The King lunges toward Harden, screaming. He'll get pushed back by the ref, but in truth, LeBron looks more bewildered by Harden's actions than truly enraged.

It's like the NBA's biggest star is wondering if James Harden and the Houston Rockets have lost their damn minds.

They pretty much have. And it's beautiful thing to watch. If it's not Harden kicking LeBron, it's Patrick Beverley getting LeBron into a wrestling match on the floor. In a nationally televised Sunday afternoon showcase that's part UFC Cage Match, part somewhat possible NBA Finals preview and all MVP staredown, the Rockets are clearly determined to be the instigators, the bullies and the finishers.

Houston and Harden take it right to LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers and walk off with a thoroughly satisfying 105-103 overtime victory. This is a win those late '80s Bad Boys Detroit Pistons could appreciate. It's equal parts grit, ferocity and uber talent.

 Has anyone ever been suspended for their actions in a game that won them an NBA MVP? 

Which brings us back to James Harden.

Has anyone ever been suspended for their actions in a game that won them an NBA MVP?

That's where things just may stand with Harden. The Rockets' lifeline figures to get sat down for a game for that groin shot. "Obviously, it was not a basketball play and obviously the league will take a look at it," James says rather ominously in the Cavaliers postgame.

"I don't know what he was thinking."

Harden is thinking he wants LeBron's freaking MVP award. And he just about takes it.

With an assist to LeBron for clanging it away.

In a game that ends with LeBron badly missing not one, but two free throws with 4.2 seconds left in overtime — two free throws that would have won the game for Cleveland — Harden is clearly the best player on the floor. He needs only 18 shots to get his 33 points. LeBron hoists up a whopping 35 to get his 37 points, often futilely playing one-on-five Hero Ball in the crucial moments, clanging eight of 11 free throws overall — and a no-chance forced jumper at the end of regulation.

Afterwards The King is reduced to spinning like a most pathetic House of Cards character, a task more fit for a commoner than true sports royalty. LeBron talks about how he's a two-way player after the loss, which is clearly a (somewhat dated) dig at Harden.

 Yes, more than a few Rockets fans do double takes — and break into grins — heading for the exits when Beverley's F-Bomb rings out over the sound system. 

LeBron does take on the challenge of guarding Harden starting with 6:29 left in the fourth and forces him into an air ball and two turnovers over the next 11 minutes of game time.

But Harden's still hardly shut down by LeBron's lock up attempt. He still gets to the rim when the Rockets need it most, getting by LeBron with a rocking rope-a-dope in one spectacularly memorable moment.

Harden still drags a flawed Rockets team to a huge win.

NBA Finals Worthy Drama

This gloomy, soupy Houston afternoon is all about possibilities. The crowd's arguably the best the Rockets have enjoyed all season, into it from the opening tip all the way through the second final buzzer. The scene inspires Beverley to blurt out, "We have the best fucking fans in the world!" in the in-arena, on-court postgame interview broadcast live over the Toyota PA system.

Yes, more than a few Rockets fans do double takes — and break into grins — heading for the exits when Beverley's F-Bomb rings out over the sound system.

Hey, this is in no PG game.

It's a lot of toughness, of want to, and the Rockets face the test with flying colors. And flying elbows. And expletives. Even with Kyrie Irving — one of the Top 15 players in the NBA — sidelined with a strained shoulder, LeBron clearly has the better supporting cast than Harden.

 The Rockets' Euro-stepping fiend is dragging the franchise along, making up for both Morey's mistakes and Dwight Howard's huge absence.  

Kevin Love (21 points) stands out as the third most talented player on the floor, while the Cavs' Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson (19 rebounds off the bench)  may be the fourth and fifth. (Though Terrence Jones' all-out effort, 19 points and three offensive rebounds should not go unnoticed.)

Without Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, Harden doesn't have nearly that type of support. He gets only four points in 42 minutes from Trevor Ariza in this big game — and 4-for-12 shooting and three turnovers from Josh Smith. This season's Rockets are less talented and somehow higher in the standings because of Harden's sheer individual brilliance. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is right when he notes that these Rockets "would be nowhere" without Harden. 

The Rockets' Euro-stepping fiend is dragging the franchise along, making up for both Morey's mistakes and Dwight Howard's huge absence. 

"Every game is a statement for me," Harden says afterwards.

This one is much bigger than most — and everyone watching knows it.

This one allows Leslie Alexander, sitting on the front row, wearing sneakers and flanked by Calvin Murphy and Hakeem Olajuwon on each side, to stroll into the evening, envisioning June playoff dates. Somehow Harden doesn't seem to be getting tired despite all the heavy lifting he must do game after game after game.

He stuffs the stat sheet, adding eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, two blocks and one resounding kick in his 42 minutes of LeBron Showdown. There's no longer any doubt who the best player in the NBA this season has been. That kick to LeBron's private parts will not be forgotten soon.

But the NBA MVP Award that Harden wins will linger forever.