What You Don't Know About James Harden

No fewer than nine NBA All-Star appearances, three consecutive NBA scoring titles, and gold medal victories as a member of Team USA at the FIBA World Cup and London Olympics: the accolades speak for themselves. Since being drafted from the Arizona State Sun Devils by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, James Harden has established himself as one of the most gifted shooting guards in modern-day basketball.

And like many of his teammates, the California native — who was later traded to the Houston Rockets and then the Brooklyn Nets — has also found himself in the spotlight outside of the court: seeing one of the most famous women in the world does kind of have that effect.

But what has the sportsman managed to largely keep under wraps since rising to fame? From political rows and poor investments to feuds with rappers and famous friends, here's a look at Harden's untold truth.

James Harden got involved in a political row

In 2019, the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, expressed his support on Twitter for Hong Kong natives protesting against China's human rights abuses (via the Chicago Tribune). The tweet, which he later deleted, led to the Chinese Basketball Association severing all ties with the NBA team, per a Weibo post translated with Google Translate. And while Morey was defended by some in the sport, others were quick to distance themselves from his political views.

James Harden was one such name. The shooting guard even issued an apology to ESPN for his manager's "Fight for Freedom" message in a joint interview alongside fellow Houston Rocket Russell Westbrook. He added, "You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love."

In what sounded like a blatant display of damage limitation, Harden continued, "We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them, and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as [an] organization." Rival LeBron James was a little more forthright with his criticism of Morey, telling reporters (via Fox News), "Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that's just a prime example of that."

His beard comes with a price

James Harden has become just as renowned for his facial hair as his skills on the basketball court. The Brooklyn Nets star has even earned the nickname The Beard among fans because of his impressively groomed fuzz. But the shooting guard would be willing to shave off the feature that landed him a bizarre deal with Trolli Sour Brite candy — "Weird Beards" anyone? However, you'll need to stump up an eight-figure sum if you ever want to see Harden fresher-faced.

In a 2018 interview with The Ringer, the NBA favorite was asked whether he'd ever reach for the hair clippers. "Yeah, I would cut it," Harden replied. "Because then it's going to grow right back." However, he added that he'd have to be given a "minimum" of $10 million to bare the bottom half of his face.

This wasn't the first time that money came into the equation. Harden, who has been sporting his beard since his days at Arizona State University in the late '00s, previously revealed to TMZ that he'd consider going clean-shaven for charity. But when asked whether $80,000 would suffice, the sportsman replied, "Hell no."

James Harden is a dedicated follower of fashion

If there was a league for the most stylish players in the NBA, then James Harden would no doubt be constantly fighting it out for the title. The Brooklyn Nets star has become renowned for his distinctive sartorial choices, often making the pre-game tunnel resemble a haute couture runway.

In a 2021 chat with GQ, the Californian revealed that he's always had an interest in clothes and that he's never regretted any of the more outlandish outfits he's been snapped in: "I'm just very, very strange in the sense that I can wear anything and be confident. Most of the people in the rooms that I walk in, they're like, 'What the hell is he wearing?' But inside I'm normal, feeling like I'm wearing something everyone else has on."

Harden further showed his commitment to all things fashion when he became a board member at Saks Fifth Avenue, per Bloomberg. And he's determined to leave his mark on the luxury department store. "My position is to help Saks move the culture and let the world know that we're not the previous Saks that everybody's familiar with," he told GQ. "We're more innovative. We're outside. We're here to put a stamp on the fashion world."

The NBA star has a vested interest in soccer

You might expect that conquering one of America's biggest sporting leagues would be enough. But in 2019, James Harden proved that he had more than NBA glory on his mind when he bought a minor stake in the group that owns both the Houston Dynamo of the MLS and Houston Dash of the NWSL.

Harden joined another sportsman notable for his achievements outside the soccer world — the six-weight class world boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya — in the company that also boasts the BBVA Compass Stadium as part of its portfolio.

In a statement about the business move shared on the Dynamo's website, Harden said, "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. ... I've been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose." Of course, just two years after declaring Houston as his home, the basketball star transferred to the Brooklyn Nets.

James Harden was cursed by rapper Lil B

Hell hath no fury like a basketball-obsessed rapper scorned. In 2015, Lil B placed a curse on James Harden for celebrating with the "cooking dance" routine without giving any props to its apparent originator, per TMZ.

The Bay Area MC, real name Brandon Christopher McCartney, claimed that he invented the "stirring the pot" move he'd been showing off on stage for several years before it made it to the basketball court. And so to get his revenge, he issued a hex against the then-Houston Rockets star — one which, coincidentally or not, initially seemed to work. As noted by Billboard, Harden's team subsequently suffered consecutive playoff defeats.

Lil B eventually announced that he'd lifted the hex after the Rockets' overall loss to the Golden State Warriors, and then again two years later, and then again in 2018. But Harden seemed totally unaware that he'd been cursed in the first place, saying, "I don't even know who that is," when TMZ brought the subject up. The rapper had previously worked his black magic against Kevin Durant, condemning the Oklahoma City Thunder star to rotten luck after he dissed his rhyme-spitting abilities.

He couldn't handle the Kardashian spotlight

Globe-conquering reality TV show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" had already been on our screens for eight years by the time that James Harden began stepping out with one member of its clan in 2015, per The Daily Beast. So you'd think the NBA star would have been fully aware that his relationship with Khloé Kardashian would spark a media circus.

However, speaking to Sports Illustrated, the then-Houston Rockets star appeared surprised that the press took such an interest in his day-to-day life during his time with the socialite. "I don't need pictures of myself when I'm driving my car. Who cares? What shoes am I wearing? Who cares? Where am I eating? Who cares?" he said. "It was unnecessary stuff that I think trickled down to my teammates. I had to eliminate that."

Harden and Kardashian called things off after eight months, with the latter later hinting on her talk show "Kocktails with Khloe" (via E!) that the former's infidelity was the cause. And the sportsman certainly seemed happy that he was no longer in the glare of the tabloids. "I wasn't getting anything out of it except my name out there and my face out there, and I don't need that. It wasn't uncomfortable, but it wasn't me," he told Sports Illustrated. 

James Harden said he was a 'chubby' kid

It seems hard to believe considering he's spent no fewer than a dozen years competing as one of the NBA's most athletic shooting guards, but James Harden was a self-described "chubby" kid who struggled with a lack of stamina during his school years. 

In a 2017 chat with Time, the basketball star talked about how his asthma and relatively short height were also barriers to his sporting dreams. Luckily, while Harden didn't yet seem destined for an Olympic gold medal-winning career, he had someone who believed in him, his Artesia High School coach Scott Pera. "It was probably the worst time of my life. I was lazy. He had me running miles," Harden said. "I needed my inhaler, I'm about to pass out. It wasn't good. But I got better at it. He saw it in me."

Of course, Harden went on to enjoy a growth spurt — he now stands at 6 feet and 5 inches tall — and got his asthma under control. Aside from the odd celebratory mac and cheese and occasional sweet treat, he also adopted a healthier diet, per Sports Illustrated. The Brooklyn Nets star insists, though, that he never had any doubts he would make it: "You have a dream, you have a goal that you want to do something, you're going to find a way to do it. At that time, I didn't know how it was going to happen. But I knew it was going to happen," he told Time.

He is attached to his mother's hip

James Harden is a momma's boy and he's not embarrassed to admit it. In a 2015 chat with ESPN, the shooting guard freely declared that he was "attached at the hip" to his mom, Monja Willis. In fact, most of his close friends are, too.

Harden explained that Willis serves as a surrogate mother to his four best pals, and she isn't afraid to dish out advice from the sidelines to the rest of his teammates, either, with "Follow through" apparently a popular instruction. The retired AT&T dispatcher practically raised the NBA star, his sister Arnique, and his brother Akili on her own, and Harden has made sure that she's been well looked after since his rise to basketball fame.

Indeed, the Brooklyn Nets star spent $2 million on a three-story home previously owned by another former Houston Rocket, Cuttino Mobley, for his beloved mom in 2015. According to the Los Angeles Times, it featured a theater room, infinity pool, and outdoor barbecue area. It was located less than half an hour away from Harden's own pad. Willis has continued to show her support for her eldest, too. She's reportedly attended approximately 90 percent of the 900-plus professional games that Harden has played in.

James Harden came straight outta Compton

During an appearance on 93.7's "Blessed Beatz" show in 2018, James Harden's mom, Monja Willis, revealed she didn't encourage her three kids to pursue various sports as a career. She simply wanted them to have something to keep them off the streets.

Willis explained that she was never particularly sporty herself, but saw the likes of basketball, football, and cheerleading as a welcome distraction from what was going on elsewhere in Compton. "Being from L.A., and it's probably just being from anywhere, you have to keep your kids under your wing," she added.

Willis knows all about the dark side of the California city. Per the Houston Chronicle, Harden's father, also named James, spent a considerable amount of time "in and out of prison" for various offenses, some drug-related. In 2018, the Brooklyn Nets star spoke to GQ about what it was like to grow up in such an area, describing it as "dirty" and "rough" before adding, "Just wasn't the safest place, you know? Gangs and distractions. A lot of people that weren't trying to be successful."

The playmaker wasn't always a playa

James Harden appears to have had even more girlfriends than he's had NBA All-Star selections. Amber Rose, Ashanti, and Trina are just a few of the famous faces the shooting guard has been linked with since rising to fame. Then there was that confirmed relationship with Khloé Kardashian, per E!.

And if that wasn't enough, during a chat with GQ, and much to the surprise of the interviewer, the Brooklyn Nets star claimed that he isn't averse to the odd blind date, either. But it turns out that Harden wasn't always the playa he now seems to be. Speaking to the "E:60" series on ESPN, the NBA icon's mom, Monja Willis, revealed that his technique with girls back in the day left a lot to be desired.

No doubt embarrassing her son, the retired AT&T worker explained, "One time he got in trouble in junior high school. He threw a basketball at a girl that kept bothering him. He wasn't into dating; he wanted to just play basketball in the gym. And I think she was flirting with him, so he threw the basketball at her."

James Harden lost millions in a social media flop

Forget Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, and Sugar Ray Robinson vs Jake La Motta. The biggest boxing rivalry of all time was between YouTuber Austin McBroom of The Ace Family fame and Addison Rae's ex, fellow TikToker Bryce Hall. Well, that's what James Harden was hoping for, anyway.

The Brooklyn Nets star reportedly plowed $2 million into "Social Gloves: Battle of the Platforms," an event that aimed to capitalize on the bizarre trend for social media stars to pummel the crap out of each other. Harden claimed that he was promised a $400,000 return on his investment, according to Page Six, but sadly the demand to see two millennials with no prior boxing experience hit the ring wasn't quite as big as expected. 

Billboard reported that the bona fide commercial disaster made a loss of $10 million. And although he pretty much earns such hefty figures in his sleep, Harden wasn't prepared to just take the hit. He filed a lawsuit against the promoters in a bid to recoup his multi-million dollar investment, per Page Six. 

He lost two of his closest friends within a year

James Harden had been friends with Nipsey Hussle ever since they attended the same middle school together, per Rockets Wire. It's why the former Oklahoma City Thunder star was left inconsolable when the Grammy-nominated rapper was fatally shot outside his apparel store, Marathon, in Los Angeles in March 2019, as reported by NBC News.

In an Instagram story, Harden stated that finding out about the tragedy was one of the worst days of his life. The NBA icon, who told GQ that he had dinner with Hussle just days before his untimely death, subsequently promised to follow through on the plans to launch a sports agency that he'd made with his childhood pal. And after helping the Houston Rockets defeat the Utah Jazz, he announced to reporters that he wanted to further sustain Hussle's legacy. "This journey that I'm on is for him. It's plain and simple. That name, Nip, everybody knows that name now," he said, per Billboard. "I'm just another person helping that name live on."

Harden was also left bereft in January 2020 when another close friend, Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash. The pair had played together during Team USA's Olympic triumph eight years earlier and forged a friendship off the court, too. Harden told the Houston Chronicle that he saw the NBA icon as a big brother figure: "Any time somebody asked me who my idol is, who I grew up watching and idolizing, it's Kobe. I have so many memories."

James Harden accidentally made a political statement with a facemask

In 2020, James Harden found himself at the center of a controversy involving face masks. But unlike Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard, it wasn't for refusing to wear one. No, the Californian caused a stir with what his mask had printed on its front.

As reported by Complex, Harden was accused of voicing his support for the police force by sporting a mask emblazoned with a symbol synonymous with the Blue Lives Matter movement. And considering this was just a couple of months after cop Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on camera, sparking an unprecedented amount of Black Lives Matter protests, per The New York Times, the then-Houston Rocket was accused of taking sides — and for many, the wrong one.

However, Harden soon made it clear that his tone-deaf choice of face-covering was down to an entirely innocuous reason. He said (via CNN), "Honestly, I wasn't trying to make a political statement. I wore it because it covered my face, my beard. I thought it looked cool, that was it." The Californian also spoke of the emotions he felt while watching his adopted city rally itself for Floyd's funeral: "How so many people could come together so close, obviously it was for a tragic reason but the marching and everything we're standing for is very powerful."

The basketball icon has a net worth of $165 million

In 2015, Adidas gave James Harden a sponsorship deal that would see him earn $15 million per annum for 13 years simply for wearing their apparel — and for helping them get one over arch-rivals Nike, per USA Today. Of course, by this point, the basketball star was already earning the kind of sums that made such lucrative endorsements look like pocket money.

Indeed, just two years later, the shooting guard became the NBA's richest player of all time thanks to the signing of a four-year extension deal worth a colossal $228 million with the Houston Rockets, per Forbes. The same franchise also offered him another $103 million to stay put for another two years in 2020. But frustrated with the Rockets' inconsistent form, the Californian turned this money-spinning offer down in favor of a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, per the Houston Chronicle

Harden continued to rake in the big bucks there, too, though, and in October 2021, the New York Post reported that another record-breaking deal — one that would make the sportsman the league's first-ever $60 million-a-year man — was on the table for 2022. As of this writing, he's the sixth-highest paid player in the NBA, per Forbes. But by the time he retires from the court, expect Harden to have significantly added to the $165 million fortune that Celebrity Net Worth reports he has already earned.