Harden-Morey feud reminds us of other rifts in NBA, MLB and NFL

ByESPN.com ESPN logo
Monday, August 28, 2023

For a while, it seemed like James Harden and Daryl Morey worked pretty well together. Morey brought Harden to the Houston Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where they enjoyed great success, and Morey brought Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers almost as soon as he was able.

Now, however, it seems the relationship has soured. Harden requested a trade after the Sixers' Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Boston Celtics, and after talks with the LA Clippers stalled, Harden seems to have placed the blame squarely at Morey's feet.

"Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he's a part of," Harden said during an Adidas media event in China in mid-August. "Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he's a part of."

While it remains to be seen how this will play out, it's certainly not the first time what appeared to be a solid alliance between a player and a coach or executive has gone wrong. Here are some other times in the sports world where things fell apart in dramatic fashion.

Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy

The star center and his coach had an auspicious start, making the Eastern Conference semifinals in their first season together with the Orlando Magic(2008-09) and the Finals in their second. Cracks began to show in that second season, however, as Howard questioned Van Gundy's tactics after a Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2009 semifinals. The Magic kept getting stymied in the playoffs in subsequent seasons, and Howard demanded a trade.

It all culminated in a bizarre scene in which Van Gundy, in an interview before a loss to the New York Knicks, told reporters that Howard wanted him fired -- while Howard, seemingly unaware of what Van Gundy had just said, approached Van Gundy and put his arm around him. Van Gundy was fired a month and a half later, and Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason.

Allen Iverson and Larry Brown

Iverson and Brown's partnership turned the 76ers from basement-dwellers into one of the best teams of the turn-of-the-millennium NBA. The two clashed with increasing frequency, however, leading to the Answer's infamous "practice" speech at a news conference after Brown criticized him for how seriously he felt Iverson was taking the team's practice sessions. The animosity didn't last long beyond Brown's departure from the team in 2003, however, as the two seemed to mend fences.

Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin

The Bronx was burning in the summer of 1977, and at least some of that fire spread to the New York Yankees dugout, where Jackson and Martin constantly clashed. Arguments on national TV, disagreements over Jackson's place in the batting order, the looming shadow of George Steinbrenner over it all -- it was a chaotic time. Yet things came together just fine for the Yankees in the end, with Martin receiving an extension right before Jackson hit three home runs in Game 6 of the World Series to solidify his reputation as "Mr. October."

Things deteriorated for good in the 1978 season, however, with Martin having another public confrontation with Jackson over a disagreement on bunt signs in mid-July. It led to Martin's famous description of Jackson and Steinbrenner: "The two of them deserve each other. One's a born liar; the other's convicted." Martin resigned, was brought back, but was fired during the 1979 season.

Asante Samuel and Bill Belichick

Samuel was a key player in the first part of the New England Patriots' dynasty, anchoring a defense that was, arguably, just as responsible for the team's success as Tom Brady. The team won two Super Bowls with Samuel and very nearly won a third to complete an undefeated season. However, the New York Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, with Samuel coming under some criticism for dropping a potential interception late in the game that might have sealed the victory.

Since his retirement, Samuel has been heavily critical of Belichick, saying the coach created a negative environment and crediting the team's success mostly to Brady. He even lobbied against Lamar Jackson potentially joining the team in the 2023 offseason.

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