James Harden Had 'A Lot of Mixed Emotions' in Return to Houston with Nets

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 4, 2021

Brooklyn Nets' James Harden drives to basket for a layup past Houston Rockets' Ben McLemore, left, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Houston. (Bob Levey/Pool Photo via AP)
Bob Levey/Associated Press

James Harden's first game back in Houston as a member of the Brooklyn Nets ended with him posting a 29-point, 14-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in a 132-114 road win.

The limited number of fans allowed in the Toyota Center amid the COVID-19 pandemic both cheered and booed Harden, who played for Houston from 2012-2020 before requesting a trade that eventually led him to being dealt to the Nets in January.

After the game, ESPN's Malika Andrews asked Harden how he felt in his return in light of news that the Rockets would be retiring his old No. 13.

"A lot of mixed emotions for the fans, but I'm just happy. My team did an unbelievable job of just having my back, allowing me to come out here as a team and get this win.

"Credit the ownership of the Rockets, the Fertitta family, for putting my jersey in the rafters.

"Hopefully that shows on the court, off the court, the contributions I had to this city. Once again I appreciate the support and love and support, and the show goes on."

Harden's storied career in Houston included eight All-Star Game appearances, seven All-NBA team nods, three scoring titles and the 2017-18 NBA MVP.

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Houston made the playoffs during each of his eight seasons, reaching the Western Conference Finals twice.

Off the court, Harden donated his money and time to Houston during his entire tenure. Examples include donating money to renovate basketball courts, providing groceries to families at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving children and their families a holiday shopping spree and much more.

His work in Houston didn't stop when he went to Brooklyn, as he also provided thousands of meals to Houston-area families in the aftermath of a winter storm that left millions in Texas without power.

Harden will not return to play in Houston for the remainder of the regular season, so his next chance to play in front of thousands of Rockets fans won't be until next year. However, Houston will come to Brooklyn on Wednesday, March 31.