Houston Rockets: The Christmas gift of James Harden

Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images
Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images /

In an era where several of the game’s marquee stars have sought to test the waters of free agency over the last decade, Houston Rockets star guard James Harden has surprisingly managed to do the complete opposite. Here’s why Clutch City fans should be thankful for the reigning NBA MVP this season and beyond.

Just moments after the Houston Rockets officially conducted an introductory press conference for free agent signings Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson on July 9, 2016, general manager Daryl Morey, then-owner Leslie Alexander and James Harden walked up to the podium of the Toyota Center to make a surprising announcement that would prove to be far more significant.

"“He’ll be around here for a while,” Alexander eagerly told reporters on hand for Harden’s major revelation two years ago.“I don’t think people appreciate how great he is, but we certainly do.”"

The player who was dealt to the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder just four seasons prior, and guided Clutch City to the 2015 Western Conference Finals, had signed a four-year, $118.1 million contract extension to officially become the face of the franchise.

"“This is home for me,” Harden said during his time with the media. “Whatever it takes we try to build and find ways to get better.“That’s my focus and that’s my priority.”"

Yet despite bringing a quick sigh of relief to sports fans across H-Town, Harden’s unwavering commitment to the Rockets would not stop there, as the man who became the first player to ever score and assist on 2,000 points in one season showed he was devoted one step further the following summer.


Despite the disappointing 17-15 start this year, on the whole, the Rockets have managed to propel themselves to new heights since his arrival. The reigning MVP’s presence — combined with the likes of Gordon, Clint Capela and Chris Paul — has helped grant Houston with a level of assurance and stability that most teams desire to obtain in today’s NBA.

He’s provided the organization and city with one of the most iconic sports figures in the last two decades, as Harden has managed to not just make the Capital of the Sunbelt his playground, but his permanent residence.

All of which have helped the Beard to become a local folk hero to many since his arrival.


"“It’s good to have James locked in here because of what he’s done for the city of Houston,” Rockets swingman and Houston native Gerald Green told reporters when asked about Harden’s impact on the Space City’s current sports scene. “The culture that he’s brought with this team, I think that the people in Houston and the organization couldn’t be more fond of having a player like [him] on the team.“When he sees a good team around him, and we’re winning and he’s in such a great city with good fans, you just can’t leave something like that.”"

Although one could argue that it is easy for Harden to remain devoted to his current employer due to his annual salary, second-year owner Tilman Fertitta and Rockets fans must be very thankful to have the six-time All-Star around for the long haul this holiday season, in an era where most of the league’s top players have sought to test the waters of free agency — or demand a trade — prior to the expiration of their current contracts as of late.

Since the beginning of Harden’s tenure with the Rockets in 2012, marquee stars such as Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard have all departed the respective teams that drafted them for new destinations. LeBron James has found a way to take his repertoire of talents from Miami and Cleveland to Los Angeles during that time span too, and one cannot help but ponder how scary the state of Houston’s franchise might look like without No. 13 leading the way.

Despite the recent decisions of his peers, Harden has never been swayed to test the free agency or trade market, and the 29-year-old combo guard aspires to help guide the Rockets back to glory yet once again.

"“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Harden said immediately after signing his four-year, $228 million extension last year. “I don’t want to deal with free agency. I don’t want to deal with any of that stuff.“I know where home is….I know where I want to retire ultimately, and I know where I want to win a championship.”"

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That is Houston, a place where most Rockets faithful hope that Harden’s dream becomes a reality someday.