James Harden and the Houston Rockets did not end their relationship on the best terms, but the franchise is choosing to let bygones be bygones and celebrate the good times they did have together. As a result, they’re planning to retire Harden’s No. 13.
Team owner Tillman Fertitta confirmed the decision in a statement to the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday:
“James Harden will always be a Rocket. 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 fan base/community (are) truly remarkable.”
Traded from the Thunder to the Rockets in a blockbuster deal back in 2012, Harden spent eight-plus seasons in Houston. During that time he racked up countless personal accolades, including an MVP, three scoring titles and six First Team All-NBA appearances. And though the Rockets never broke through in the playoffs, Harden made sure they never missed a postseason appearance and led them to two Western Conference finals.
Other stars came and went, including Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, but for better and worse Harden defined nearly an entire decade for the Rockets. In that time he grew from a solid sixth man into arguably one of the best offensive talents the league has ever seen. And he did it with a style all his own.
While he didn’t handle his exit gracefully, that doesn’t diminish the legacy he built in Houston and, honestly, it would be surprising if they had chosen not to retire his number. Especially considering the fact that it likely won’t happen until after Harden retires, and by that time whatever bad feelings exist between him and the franchise will be long gone.