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  • Writer's pictureByron Washington

Homecoming


James Harden final week as a Houston Rocket. (Carmen Mandato/AP)

All great things must come to an end and for Houston Rockets that took place in January shortly after their former superstar James Harden went on a not so pleasant rant after the team’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, finally putting his name on the trade request he had demanded just weeks prior before the start of the season.

While Harden might’ve gone too far with his off the court antics of partying in Atlanta and Vegas with the rapper Lil Baby instead of being at the start of Rockets training camp, and when he did show up a week later he seemed to be 15 to 20 pounds over his playing weight, Harden told the organization he severed greatly for eight years what he wanted for his future going forward. The Rockets understandably so wanted to make things work, after all, they invested so much into Harden since the very first day the team acquired him from Oklahoma City in 2012. Before he even put on a Rockets uniform their belief in the then NBA 6th Man Award winner showed greatly with a contract extension of five years worth $80 million guaranteed. Harden gave the team return on investment by becoming an NBA all-time great, winning scoring and assist titles, breaking NBA records, playoff appearances every year, two conference finals series, MVP award winner, and runner up multiple seasons, all of which most didn’t see coming even some within the organization.

Now a member of the Brooklyn Nets James Harden is set to make his way back to Houston, albeit this time around, a visitor. The impact of player empowerment since LeBron James decided to depart from Cleveland and take his talent to the Miami Heat through free agency in 2010 to team up with other NBA all-stars in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh has been the status quo. More times than not the average NBA star isn’t committed to playing on one team at the height of their prime, especially when the player feels there’s no path to a championship. This leads to fans turning on the players they cheered for on a nightly basis. Rather than being upset at ownership for not doing enough to win the grandest prize, fans’ anger shifts toward the employee especially when they make their return to the city it gave their all too.

The NBA has seen its fair share of players returning to their former team and city. How nasty and tumultuous the environment of the arena gets. Posters with words like Traitor or Quitter written on them, James Harden is set to return to Houston on Wednesday. Will he get met with the same sort of mistreatment? Who knows, but I hope not.

Rockets fans should embrace what the past eight years represented. Houston as a city should thank Harden for the work his 3 The Harden Way charity Foundation has done and continues to do. Whether it was the seasonal Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate or the shopping spree for children who didn’t have much, Harden always made sure to be there for his community. The JH-Town weekend might’ve been his biggest staple, from charitable softball games to basketball games, all -women brunch conferences, concerts, flying in some of the biggest stars such as Travis Scott and Meek Mill to be a part of the festivities, the goal was to always put others in need first. The proceeds went directly to 3 The Harden Way Foundation.

Harden couldn’t deliver the City a championship in the court, he tried, he gave his all, left no stone unturned, every player is not blessed enough to win championships for the city they become a star in, but Harden has always been a champion off the court. While his body isn’t physically present every day in Houston as it were for almost a decade, those who work with him are, when the winter storm ravaged most of Texas weeks ago, it was Harden once again asking how best can he rebuild his community, just as though he did during Hurricane Harvey when he donated $1 million of his own money.

“I’m on phone calls every day all day, trying to impact the city because they’ve shown me so much love and respect in the time that I was there so I call Houston home,” Harden stated to reporters when asked his thoughts. “ It’s devastating. This is probably worse than Hurricane Harvey just because we don’t know how many people are affected, not having electricity, not having power, not able to eat or be outside or whatever the case may be.” Harden also has been in contact with the city’s mayor and even plumbers to discuss the matter.

“We’re trying to feed as many people as we can,” Harden said. “Also a lot of water, shout out to Body Armor who’s helping me with that, we’re getting a lot of water shipped in this week for people, which I’ll be posting. And then as far as plumbing, I reached out and I’m in contact with some plumbing companies that have been for these last few days taking care of 7–8 houses a day patching up these pipes because once the electricity came back on, pipes are likely to burst and we’ve seen so many cases of that in Houston that I’ve been in contact with Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Relief Gang, just so many people that can help while I’m not there and this is a huge problem, but I try to impact it and help as much as I can while I’m not there.”

James Harden’s heart soured on the Houston Rockets organization to compete for championships moving forward, the love for his city has never wavered and it’s why he should be given a standing ovation when he returns to town.




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