Texans, Rockets, Astros have broken Houston sports fans’ hearts with superstar losses since 2018

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Mark Lane
·6 min read
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Since the Houston Astros’ World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fall of 2017, things have been rough for Houston sports fans.

Since then the team has suffered a magnitude of scandals, losses and humiliations, including rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tearing his ACL the next day in practice, blowing a 3-2 lead against the Kevin Durant’s super Warriors, and losing in Game 7 to the Washington Nationals in the 2019 World Series.

Amongst the copious amounts of losing on the team front, Houston has also lost a myriad of superstars in the process whether due to free agency, trade demands, or simply horrible management. With George Springer now with the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Watson trade rumors as annoying to Houston fans as a bad case of tinnitus, here are the worst Houston sports superstar departures since 2018.

7. Trading Russell Westbrook to Washington Wizards for John Wall and a first-round pick

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The acquisition of Westbrook in the summer of 2019 was one that generated a lot of excitement amongst Rockets fans as James Harden was reunited with one of his favorite players in the league. However, the two proved to be a somewhat unnatural fit together as the team was forced or play "small ball" and employ P.J. Tucker at center in order to accommodate Westbrook’s inability to score from the perimeter. The 2020 bubble playoffs in Orlando were plentiful evidence Westbrook was not leading the Rockets to a title as their alpha. John Wall is a similar level player who represents equal hope for Rockets fans and the first-round draft choice was a nice pickup.

6. Trading Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle Seahawks for OLBs Jacob Martin, Barkevious Mingo and a third-round pick

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney was the No. 1 overall selection in 2014 and a very popular player during Houston’s stout defensive era before Deshaun Watson. At the time, this trade was generally seen as unacceptable by many around the league and in Houston. However, Clowney’s general lack of production from the edge combined with the pleasant surprise of Martin as a young player has made this loss much more tolerable as time has passed.

5. Gerrit Cole signs with New York Yankees for $324 million

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Cole had an absolutely stellar 2019 campaign with the Astros en route to finishing second in Cy Young voting only behind Justin Verlander. He was absolutely the level of talent Astros fans would have loved to retain and kept. However, the continued presence of Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander on the roster, Cole’s massive contract, and the underwhelming first season for the Yankees have made this loss tolerable with time.

4. Trading Chris Paul to Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook

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This is a trade many were split on at the time. Paul had been an integral part of the Rocket’s beautiful, almost-champions season in 2018 where they took Golden State further than anyone else had during Kevin Durant’s (healthy) tenure. On the flip side, Paul had deteriorated what appeared to be significantly during the 2018-2019 campaign and the team had been destroyed in 5 games during the conference semi-finals the next year by a Golden State team WITHOUT Kevin Durant. Regardless, Paul and a treasure chest of draft picks were a ton to give up for Russell Westbrook. Considering Paul’s leadership ability and threat from the outside, the two must-have’s with James Harden in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, this trade seriously hurts in retrospect.

3. Trading Deandre Hopkins to Arizona Cardinals for RB David Johnson and a second-round pick

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If the Clowney trade was generally dismissed by most of the NFL, this trade was absolutely laughed at as Bill O’Brien expelled one of the Texans' most valuable assets for pennies. Johnson to anyone with eyeballs was well past his prime and the second-round pick was used on defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, who was hardly impressive in 2020. Meanwhile, Hopkins had emerged as one of the best receivers in the league and a true successor to the greatness of Andre Johnson on the outside. During the 2020 season, this trade would look even worse as Hopkins thrived with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and Blacklock barely saw the field during his first season with Houston. Many will point to this trade as the moment O’Brien was doomed to fail as a general manager and star quarterback Deshaun Watson began to turn away from the franchise.

2. George Springer signs with Toronto Bluejays for $150 million

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Springer is different than everyone else on this list for one key reason. He delivered a title to the city of Houston. Specifically, he was the poster boy behind the Astros’ 2017 championship and the first young star of their rebuilding period that started in 2014. Springers’ lofty six-year, $150 million contract, especially when it was well known Houston would struggle to be able to pay for his services, makes this loss slightly more acceptable. No. 4 will not soon be forgotten for his importance in the Astros’ emergence and batting leadoff every game. However, his amicable relationship with the organization and inevitability of departure keeps him one spot below the most most painful loss of the last two years.

1. Trading James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Breakups are painful. It’s never fun when your ex dumps you in order to immediately "upgrade" and move on. That is especially true in the NBA, when only five players truly provide a shot at title contention from year to year. Harden made his displeasure with the Rockets very public, showing up late to training camp and giving noticeably poor effort during the team’s first games of the season. Trading Harden was certainly a necessity given his behavior and very public nature of the trade demand. However, watching him potentially win a title immediately with Kevin Durant after growing immensely as a player with the Rockets during his eight seasons in Houston is still brutal. The nature of the transaction and all of the mixed feelings involved bump this one to the top of the list. Harden, his MVPs and scoring titles, his regular season brilliance and playoff lumps, will not soon be forgotten by Houston fans. Maybe he returns one day.