After failing to agree on a contract extension with the Thunder, Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets on October 27, 2012, along with Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward, in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks (which became Steven Adams in 2013 and Mitch McGary in 2014), and a second round pick (which became Álex Abrines in 2013). Rockets general manager Daryl Morey called Harden a "foundational" player and expected him to be Houston's featured player despite previously only playing a supporting role behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. On October 31, 2012, Harden signed a contract extension with the Rockets for five years worth $80 million. That same day, he became the first-ever NBA player to score 37 or more points while registering a double-digit assist total in his team debut, posting 37 points, a career-high 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals and one block in a 105–96 win over the Detroit Pistons. He became just the fourth NBA player in the last 25 years to post those totals in a single game and matched the third-highest point total for any NBA player in his team debut (most for Rockets debut). Two days later, he scored 45 points against the Atlanta Hawks. His 82 total points were the most scored by a player in his first two games with a team in NBA history, surpassing the previous mark held by Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 79 points in his first two career games with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959. He registered the first triple-double of his career on February 2, 2013 against the Charlotte Bobcats, recording 21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Harden was named as a reserve for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, marking his first All-Star selection. He recorded 15 points, six rebounds and three assists in a 143–138 win by the West over the East. On February 20, 2013, Harden scored a career-high 46 points in a 122–119 win over his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After missing the Rockets' next game with an illness and a strained neck, his return game on February 25 saw him score 28 points against the Atlanta Hawks, snapping his 32-game streak with at least 30. On February 28, he scored 58 points in a 121–118 win over the Miami Heat. On March 19, he scored 31 points in a win against the Hawks and became the first player in NBA history to score 30 or more points against all 29 other teams in a single season. On March 20, he scored 57 points in a 126–125 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, marking his seventh 50-point game of the season. Two days later, he matched his career high with 61 points, including 27 in the first quarter, to lead the Rockets to a 111–105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. For these performances, he received his fourth Western Conference Player of the Week honor of the 2018–19 season. On March 31, Harden had 50 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 119–108 win over the Sacramento Kings to record his ninth 50-point game of the regular season. It was his fifth career 50-point triple-double, the most of any player in NBA history. He also became the ninth player in NBA history to make 2,000 3-pointers in their career. After a 135–103 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 3, he became the third person in NBA history to record 2,700+ points and 500+ assists in a single season. In a 149–113 blowout win against the Phoenix Suns on April 7, Harden's 30-point, 13-rebound, nine-assist, and two-steal performance matched and broke several records: he tied Kobe Bryant for the most 30-point games in one season for any NBA player in the past 30 years with 56 games; became the second player in NBA History (Michael Jordan, 1989–90) to record 2,700 points, 500 assists, and 500 rebounds in one season; and joined Michael Jordan as the only player to average at least 30 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals in one season. He finished the season with the largest scoring margin (8.1 ppg) over the second-leading scorer since Chamberlain in 1962–63.
Harden scored 43 points against the Sacramento Kings on November 6, followed by 46 points against the Los Angeles Clippers the next night. He subsequently became the first Rocket to score 43-plus points in consecutive games since Malone had two streaks of three games doing so during the 1981–82 season. On November 18, head coach Kevin McHale was fired after the Rockets began the season with a 4–7 record. Later that night, Harden scored 45 points in a 108–103 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers. On November 27, he scored 50 points in a 116–114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Harden was 14 for 28 from the field and 16 for 20 at the line in his third career game with 50 or more points. On January 20, Harden had his first triple-double of the season and seventh of his career with 33 points, a career-high 17 rebounds and 14 assists in a 123–114 loss to the Detroit Pistons. He became the first player to have at least 33 points, 17 rebounds and 14 assists in a game since Wilt Chamberlain had 53 points, 32 rebounds and 14 assists for Philadelphia in March 1968. On January 24, he recorded his second triple-double of the season with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a 115–104 win over the Dallas Mavericks. On March 25, he recorded his third triple-double of the season with 32 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a 112–109 win over the Toronto Raptors. Harden finished March with 457 points, 152 assists and 102 rebounds, becoming the first player to record at least 450 points, 150 assists and 100 rebounds in a single month since Oscar Robertson did it in December 1967. Harden finished the 2015–16 season with 374 turnovers, besting Artis Gilmore's mark of 366 in 1977–78, the first season the NBA recorded turnovers. Harden set career marks in points (29), assists (7.5) and rebounds (6.1) to join LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average at least 29 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a season.
On July 8, 2017, Harden signed a four-year contract extension with the Rockets for approximately $160 million, giving him a total six-year deal with $228 million guaranteed—the richest contract in NBA history. On November 5, he scored a career-high 56 points in a 137–110 win over the Utah Jazz, falling just shy of Calvin Murphy's 57-point franchise record set in 1978. Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to have at least 10 assists and shoot better than 75 percent from the field in a 50-point performance. On November 16, he had 23 of his 48 points in the second quarter while the Rockets scored 90 points in the first half en route to a 142–116 win over the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets made 61 percent of their first-half shots to get the second-most points in a first half in NBA history. He went on to become the first player in team history to score at least 20 points in each of the team's first 20 games of a season. Harden was named Western Conference Player of the Month for games played in October and November, marking the fifth time Harden has received the honor, all coming as a Rocket. On December 9, he scored 48 points to help the Rockets rally from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 124–117, scoring at least 20 points in each of Houston's 24 games, becoming only the second player to accomplish such a feat since the 1990–91 season. On December 20, despite Harden's 51 points, the Rockets were defeated 122–116 by the Los Angeles Lakers, ending their 14-game winning streak. Harden set a franchise record by scoring at least 20 points in his 30th straight game. The previous record was held by Malone, who did it in 29 straight games in the 1981–82 season. Two days later, Harden had a second straight 51-point performance in a 128–118 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was Harden's third 50-point game of the season and he became the first player in franchise history to have two straight 50-point games. He also became the first NBA player to score 50 or more in consecutive games since Kobe Bryant did so in four straight in March 2007. On December 31 against the Lakers, Harden scored 40 points before leaving with a hamstring injury late in the fourth quarter. Without Harden, the Rockets won 148–142 in double overtime. The following day, he was ruled out for two weeks with a Grade 2 hamstring strain. He missed seven games as a result. On January 26, he had 23 points and 11 assists in a 115–113 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Harden moved into second in Rockets history in assists with 3,347, passing Allen Leavell's 3,339. On January 30, in a 114–107 win over the Orlando Magic, Harden became the first player in NBA history to score 60 points as part of a triple-double, finishing with 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his third triple-double of the season. Harden scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to eclipse the 57 points Calvin Murphy scored in 1978 to break Houston's single-game scoring record. It was his fourth 50-point game of the season and bested his previous career high of 56 points set in November against Utah. On March 25, he helped the Rockets reach 60 wins in a season for the first time in franchise history, recording a triple-double (fourth of season, 35th of career) with 18 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in three quarters in a 118–99 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Rockets finished the regular season as the No. 1 seed for the first time in franchise history, with a franchise-best 65–17 record. Harden won his first scoring title, averaging 30.4 points per game, second in franchise history to Malone's 31.1 in 1981–82.
Harden had one of the greatest statistical seasons in team history in his first campaign with Houston. He averaged 25.9 points (fifth-best in the NBA), 4.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 78 games (all starts), becoming just the fifth player in team history to reach 2,000 points in one campaign (2,023 points). He surpassed Moses Malone's team mark for free throws made in a season (630 FTM in 1981–82), joining Malone as the only two Rockets players to ever reach 600 free throws made in a single season. Harden joined Gilbert Arenas (2005–06 and 2006–07), Kobe Bryant (2005–06 and 2007–08) and Jerry Stackhouse (2000–01) as the only four players in NBA history to record at least 600 free throws made and hit 150 or more 3-pointers in one season. Harden joined Tracy McGrady (four times in 2004–05) and Hakeem Olajuwon (three times in 1992–93) as the only Rockets to ever capture Player of the Week honors three or more times in one season. He was named to the 2012-13 All-NBA Third Team, marking his first career All-NBA Team selection while becoming just the seventh player in Rockets history to earn All-NBA recognition.
After a disappointing start to the season shooting 28.6% from the field and 15% from the three-point line in the first three games, Harden scored 59 points on 18–32 shooting from the field, along with nine assists in a 159–158 win against the Washington Wizards on October 30, 2019—two points away from his career-high. With this game, Harden extended a streak of having a 50-point game in 6 straight seasons, the 2nd-longest streak in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain (10 straight seasons, 1959–69). On November 11, 2019, he was named the Western Conference's Player of the Week after the Rockets went 3–0, Harden recording a double-double in each game and averaging 40.7 points, scoring 22 3-pointers on 43.1% shooting; 9.3 assists; 8.0 rebounds; 2.33 steals; and 1.33 blocks. Harden has scored a total of 334 points in 318 minutes of play this season, the highest total through the first nine games of a season since Michael Jordan scored 337 in 1988–89. Harden, at this point in the season, hit 39 3-pointers, marking the fourth-highest total through the first nine games of a season and the most by a player besides Stephen Curry. On November 30, 2019, in a 158–111 blowout win against the Atlanta Hawks, Harden got his fourth career 60-point game—tied for third-most with Michael Jordan—with a season-high 60 points along with 8 assists in 31 minutes. With this game, Harden joins Klay Thompson and Kobe Bryant as the only players to hit 60 points in just three quarters. His 24 shot attempts are the fewest ever in a 60-point game in NBA history. Harden is currently the only active player who has scored 60 points more than once. On December 11, 2019, Harden got his fourth 50-point game of the season with 55 points on an efficient 20-of-34 field goal shooting and 10-of-18 from three in a 116–110 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He became the fourth player in NBA history with multiple games of 10 or more 3-pointers, joining Stephen Curry (15), Klay Thompson (5), and J.R. Smith (3). He continued his scoring rampage in the following 130–107 win against the Orlando Magic on December 13, 2019, where he got his second 50-point game in a row—the third time in his career where he has scored back-to-back 50-point games —with 54 points on 19-of-31 field goal shooting and 10-of-15 from three, in addition to seven assists, and five rebounds. In this game, Harden became the second player in NBA history to score 10+ 3PM in consecutive games, joining Stephen Curry, who did this in February 2016, and he also passed Paul Pierce for 8th in the all-time career 3PM leaderboard. He also became the first player in NBA history to have 50+ points and 10+ 3PM in back-to-back games. Before those last two performances, only three times had a player attempted seven or less free throws while scoring 54 or more points in a game; Harden did it twice that week. On December 21, 2019, Harden passed Elgin Baylor for most 40-point games in NBA history with 40 points a 139–125 win against the Phoenix Suns. He became the Western Conference player of the month for December for his historical and efficient scoring tear during the month.
James Edward Harden Jr. (born August 26, 1989) is an American professional basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is one of the NBA's most prolific scorers and earned recognition as the best shooting guard in the NBA, as well as one of the top overall players in the league. He played college basketball for the Arizona State Sun Devils, where he was named a consensus All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2009. Harden was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 2012, he was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year with the Thunder and helped the team reach the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Miami Heat in five games.
On July 9, 2016, Harden signed a four-year, $118.1 million contract extension with the Rockets. In September 2016, new Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni announced that Harden would take on the point guard role to begin the 2016–17 season. In the Rockets' season opener on October 26, Harden had 34 points, a career-high 17 assists, and eight rebounds in a 120–114 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming just the second player in NBA history to record at least 30 points and 15 assists in an opener—Tim Hardaway had 32 and 18 for the Golden State Warriors in 1990. On December 14, he recorded 15 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in just three quarters to lead the Rockets to a 132–98 win over the Sacramento Kings. It was Harden's fifth triple-double of the season and the 14th of his career, tying him with Hakeem Olajuwon for most in franchise history. He set the franchise record two days later with his sixth triple-double of the season and 15th of his career. In the Rockets' 122–110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, Harden helped the team set an NBA-record with 24 three-pointers, as he finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. On December 23, he tied a career high with 17 assists in a 115–109 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. On December 30, he recorded his seventh triple-double of the season with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 140–116 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
On December 31, 2016, Harden recorded yet another triple-double with 53 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds in a 129–122 win over the New York Knicks, becoming the first player in NBA history to finish with a 50-15-15 stat line. He tied Wilt Chamberlain for the most points in a triple-double in NBA history—Chamberlain pulled the feat during the 1967–68 season, with 53 points, 32 rebounds and 14 assists. Harden set career highs for points and three-pointers (with nine) and matched his career best for assists. It was his 17th career triple-double and his fourth career 50-point game. Two days later, he recorded his ninth triple-double of the season in a win over the Washington Wizards and was named Western Conference Player of the Week for a third time. It was Harden's 12th Player of the Week honor, matching Hakeem Olajuwon for the most Player of the Week awards in franchise history. Harden's career-best December run earned him Western Conference Player of the Month honors. His 10th and 11th triple-doubles came in back-to-back games on January 8 and 10, both resulting in wins. His two performances saw him become the fourth player in NBA history with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in consecutive games—Pete Maravich, Michael Jordan and Russell Westbrook are the three others to do it. His 12th and 13th triple-doubles came in back-to-back games on January 15 and 17. On January 27, he recorded his 14th triple-double of the season with 51 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in a 123–118 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, becoming the first player in NBA history with multiple 50-point triple-doubles in a season. On February 3 against the Chicago Bulls, Harden scored his 10,000th point as a Rocket, passing Yao Ming for sixth place in franchise history. On February 11, he scored 40 points in three quarters (his ninth 40-point game of the season) to help the Rockets win 133–102 over the Phoenix Suns. He played just 29 minutes against the Suns to become the first Rockets player since Sleepy Floyd in 1991 to score 40 points in less than 30 minutes. On February 15, he recorded his 15th triple-double of the season with 38 points 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a 117–109 loss to the Miami Heat. Between March 12 and 18, he had four straight triple-doubles, giving him 19 for the season. He finished the regular season with 22 triple-doubles and became the first player in NBA history to finish the regular season with at least 2,000 points (2,356), 900 assists (907) and 600 rebounds (659). He placed second in league MVP voting to former teammate Westbrook.
Harden was selected by the head coaches as a reserve for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, which marked his second consecutive All-Star selection. He was later named as a replacement starter for the All-Star Game, where he recorded eight points, five assists, one rebound and one steal in 23:46 of action. He was twice named Western Conference Player of the Week during the season, both coming in consecutive weeks (February 24 – March 2; March 3–9). He became the first Rockets player ever to pick up Player of the Week honors in consecutive weeks in the same season. On December 26, 2013 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Harden became the first player in NBA history to register at least 27 points on two or fewer field goals made (2-9 FG), finishing with a career-best 22-of-25 from the stripe and tying the Rockets single-game record for free throws made (22-27 FT by Sleepy Floyd in February 1991). On February 5, 2014 against the Phoenix Suns, Harden played in his 120th game with Houston, scoring 23 points on 12-for-12 from the foul line to become just the third player to score at least 3,000 points in his first 120 games played with the Rockets, joining Elvin Hayes (3,320) and Tracy McGrady (3,056). On February 25, 2014, he scored a season-high 43 points in a 129–103 win over the Sacramento Kings. At the season's end, he earned All-NBA First Team honors.
Harden was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He recorded the fourth highest 3-point percentage in NBA history (.375) for a player under the age of 21 (min. of 150 attempts) during the 2009–10 season. He connected on seven straight 3-point field goals over two games (November 18 and 20), recording the most consecutive 3-point makes by a rookie since Houston guard Michael Dickerson made eight straight in May 1999. He posted a season-high 26 points against the Golden State Warriors on December 7, 2009. He was subsequently named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. During the 2010–11 season, he scored 10-plus points on 54 occasions, including a season-high 26 points against the Phoenix Suns on March 6, 2011. Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 62 games (two starts) during the lockout-shortened 2011–12 season, as he received the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. He scored in double-figures in all but four of his appearances during the season. He scored a season-high 40 points against Phoenix on April 18, 2012, becoming the first NBA player in a reserve role to score 40 points since Dallas guard Rodrigue Beaubois in March 2010. Harden helped the Thunder reach the 2012 NBA Finals, where they were defeated in five games by the Miami Heat.
Entering his sophomore year, Harden appeared on many pre-season All-American lists and on the cover of the Sports Illustrated college basketball preview issue. He was named to the Wooden Award preseason watch list. On November 30, 2008, Harden scored a career-high 40 points in an 88–58 victory over UTEP.
Harden started growing his trademark beard in 2009 after being too lazy to shave. His beard has appeared in songs and T-shirts, and it earned him an endorsement and a unique candy with Trolli's where a depiction of his face and beard was shown on each gummy.
He finished the decade as the NBA's leading scorer with 19,578 points going back to January 1, 2010 despite beginning his career as a sixth man with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was selected to his eighth consecutive All-Star Game as a backcourt starter alongside Luka Dončić.
Harden was a member of the United States national team that won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, and was also a member of the team that won the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2014. Harden was a candidate for the 2016 Olympics, but he withdrew from the team.
Over the first two months of the season, Harden was in MVP contention. On December 11, 2014, he scored a season-high 44 points in a 113–109 overtime win over the Sacramento Kings. On December 13, 2014, he recorded his third career triple-double with 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in a 108–96 win over the Denver Nuggets. On December 22, 2014, he tied his season high with 44 points in a 110–95 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
On January 19, 2015, Harden set a new season high with 45 points against the Indiana Pacers. He tied that mark with 45 points against the Trail Blazers on February 8, 2015. On February 23, 2015, he recorded his second triple-double of the season with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 113–102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. On March 6, 2015, he recorded his third triple-double of the season with 38 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a 103–93 win over the Detroit Pistons. On March 19, 2015, he scored a career-high 50 points against the Denver Nuggets. He topped that mark with 51 points against the Kings on April 1, 2015. It was his 33rd 30-point game of the season and his ninth 40-point game of the season. He became the first player in franchise history to have two 50-point games in a season. Four days later, he had 41 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder for his 10th 40-point game of the season. In the Rockets' regular season finale on April 15, Harden recorded his fourth triple-double of the season with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 117–91 win over the Utah Jazz. He helped the Rockets win their first division title since 1994 and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Harden was again named to the All-NBA First Team, and finished second in the NBA MVP voting behind Stephen Curry. Harden was later voted the inaugural National Basketball Players Association's MVP for the 2014–15 season.
On August 3, 2015, the sports apparel company Adidas submitted an endorsement deal to Harden worth $200 million over the next 13 years.
After being traded to the Houston Rockets before the 2012–13 season, Harden has led the league in scoring three times, and was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2018. He is an eight-time NBA All-Star and has earned All-NBA Team honors seven times, including six first-team selections.
On July 18, 2019, Harden became a part owner in Houston's professional soccer teams; the Houston Dynamo of MLS and the Houston Dash of NWSL. Harden explained his decision by saying "Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time" as well as "This is my city and I'm here to stay."
On October 4, 2019, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey issued a tweet that supported the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests. Morey's tweet resulted in the Chinese Basketball Association's suspension of its relationship with the Houston Rockets. Harden later apologized to China, saying: "We apologize. We love China."
During the off-season, general manager Morey and head coach D'Antoni left the Rockets. Harden demanded a trade in November 2020, and reported to training camp late. On December 26, he put up a season-high 44 points and tied a career-high 17 assists in a 128–126 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
On January 14, 2021, Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team deal which involved the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers. On January 16, he recorded 32 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists in a 122–115 win over the Orlando Magic, becoming the first player in franchise history and the seventh player in the league to log a triple-double in their team debut. Harden also set the record for being the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double debut performance, while also setting a franchise record for the most number of assists in a player's first game with the Nets.
While he has garnered acclaim for his prowess on the offensive end, Harden has built a reputation as a poor defender. Criticism of his defense intensified in early 2014, when a video titled "James Harden: Defensive Juggernaut" featuring eleven minutes worth of clips of Harden conceding field goals, was circulated on the Internet. During the 2014 offseason, he committed to an improvement on defense, which manifested as early as August of that year as a member of the United States men's national basketball team. His improved defense carried over to the following season, and has been cited as a major reason for the Rockets' regular season success. Another negative aspect of his game that is sometimes brought up by pundits are his turnovers. Harden set the NBA record for turnovers during the 2015–16 season and broke it again the following season.