Houston Rockets superstar James Harden is donating more than $240,000 to the City of Houston to renovate outdoor basketball courts in underserved areas that were ravaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Harden addressed the donation recently alongside Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as part of his JH-Town Weekend of charity. The announcement was made at Tuffly Park in north Houston, where over 100 neighborhood children also received new bicycles.
“Every day I wake up, I think about being legendary, being the best basketball player I can be on the court. But on the flip side of that, I think, ‘How can I can impact the world?’ Ultimately, I want to be a legend off the court as well, in the community,” Harden said in delivering the news.
Harden shared that when he grew up in Los Angeles, playing basketball in outside parks was a big part of his upbringing and helped him make friends. As such, he thinks more children would benefit from those types of experiences today.
“Nowadays, everything is so social media-based, kids aren’t outside playing anymore,” Harden said. “They’re on their phone or playing video games. [They] need to be active and have fun and be kids. Courts is just the beginning. My ultimate goal is to change Houston and make it better.
“Obviously the hurricane affected this area greatly, and so this is one of the reasons why I wanted to bring some positive energy and some light on this community,” Harden continued. “It’s baby steps, but we’re going to get there. In a few years, we’re going to change this city around and make it legendary.”
Harden is entering his eighth season in Houston, and he cited support from the city over his time with the Rockets as the driving force behind his donation and the annual charity weekend.
“The whole reason behind it is giving back to this beautiful city that has embraced me for the last eight years,” he said. “I’m here to help. This is the first of many courts that we’re doing.”
Turner noted that Harden also donated $1 million to the city two years ago after Harvey.
“This is not a one-time deal,” said Turner. “He loves the city, loves the people in this city. …We didn’t contact him. He knocked on my door.”
Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, averaged a career-high 36.1 points per game last season to go with 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds. That total included the second-longest streak of consecutive 30-point games (32) in NBA history, which helped Houston go 42-15 over its final 57 games.
Despite the historic production, Harden finished second to Giannis Antetokounmpo in MVP voting. However, Turner said Harden remains MVP in the Houston community.
“We appreciate him, we love him,” Turner said of Houston’s appreciation for Harden. “In our book, he’s always the MVP.”
“That’s the beauty of our city,” Turner said of Harden’s donation. “When you see these athletes, don’t just look at them as athletes. Look at them as community citizens that are giving back to the community, and they’re paying it forward.”
Harden’s charity weekend included a comedy show and a celebrity softball game featuring newly acquired Rockets guard Russell Westbrook. Earlier activities included a concert, where Westbrook danced on stage alongside Harden.
All of the JH-Town Weekend events benefitted Harden’s 3 The Harden Way foundation, which offers scholarships and internship opportunities for students facing economic adversity.