James Harden's No. 13 Jersey Will Be Retired by Rockets, Says Tilman Fertitta

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2021

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) gestures to his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets are planning to retire James Harden's No. 13 jersey when he calls time on his NBA career.

"James Harden will always be a Rocket," team governor Tilman Fertitta said, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. "Of course, we will retire his jersey. He made my first three years of owning this franchise unforgettable. The success he brought this franchise over eight years and the memories he created for our fanbase/community (are) truly remarkable."

The Rockets and Harden had a bitter divorce, which is almost always the case after a star player requests a trade. The nine-time All-Star seemed checked out, and the situation became unsalvageable when he publicly lamented in January how he thought the team was a lost cause within the context of being a title contender.

That doesn't change the fact Harden is one of the greatest players in franchise history and perhaps second only behind Hakeem Olajuwon. He trails only Olajuwon in points (18,365) and win shares (115.2) and is the team's all-time leader in assists (4,796), per Basketball Reference.

Houston made a reasonably big bet on Harden at the time, hoping he could go from a super sixth man on the Oklahoma City Thunder to the No. 1 star on his own team. The decision paid off in spades as the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and 2018.

Harden was unable to get Houston over the hump to win its third championship, but that's largely down to bad luck and even worse timing since the Rockets' best years overlapped with those of the Golden State Warriors' dynasty.

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Hanging his jersey in the rafters would be an honor befitting his contributions. If it were to happen, he'd be the seventh Rockets player to have his number retired.