James Harden catchup guide: What to know about the new Sixers star

He’s on the board of Saks and co-owns a women’s soccer team.

James Harden after ringing the bell before this week's Sixers game

James Harden after ringing the bell before this week's Sixers game

Chris Szagola / AP Photo
rashadgrove-2

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


James Harden is officially a Philadelphia 76er, after more than a year of speculation. It shouldn’t take anywhere near that for the city to fall for him.

Not just because of his performance on the court, which will be big. As a former league MVP, 10-time All-Star, and member of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team, that’s almost a given. But Harden is a unique character, just the kind of person Philly adores.

After he arrived in the mid-season blockbuster trade that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, billboards sprang up almost immediately across the Delaware Valley declaring, “The Beard is Here.”

And it turns out Harden wanted Philly as much as we wanted him.

“Originally, when I was going through everything I was going through in Houston, Philly was my first choice,” Harden said this week. “It just didn’t happen. I don’t really want to get into the Brooklyn situation. I just knew for a very long time this was a perfect fit.”

So what should you know about the city’s newest sports icon? Here’s a look at some fun facts about James Edward Harden Jr.

His signature beard is professionally maintained

Besides his court skills, Harden is best known for his facial hair. He began growing it during college and has been keeping it up ever since — but apparently he never touches it himself. The beard is professionally maintained by his barber, without any special products.

He once said he would cut it for charity if someone dropped a cool $10 million. Harden should feel right at home in the city of “Brotherly Beards.”

He takes fashion so seriously he’s on the Saks board

Considered one of the most fashionable players in professional sports, Harden’s unabashed drip helped create the trend of pregame fit pics.

“I’m just very, very strange in the sense that I can wear anything and be confident,” Harden told GQ last summer, right after joining the board of Saks to help invigorate fashion culture. “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.”

He co-owns two soccer teams

Expanding his business holdings in July 2019, Harden bought shares in the group that owns MLS team Houston Dynamo — which also owns women’s affiliate Houston Dash of the NWSL.

Harden shares minority ownership with boxing’s Oscar De La Hoya, investor Gabriel Brener, and energy trader Ben Guill, alongside NYC real estate developer Ted Segal, who dropped a reported $400 million for a majority stake.

The group also owns leasing rights for BBVA Stadium, home to the sibling soccer franchises and Texas Southern University Football..

His mom will probably show up in Philly

Harden is a self-proclaimed “momma’s boy.” He and mother Monja Willis have been “attached at the hip” since she retired in 2009, Harden told ESPN. When he moved to Houston to play for the Rockets, he brought his mother a house 20 mins away.

Word is Monja has been in attendance at 90% of her son’s NBA games, so expect her to show up in Philadelphia soon.

He’s a superstar despite battling asthma

Harden has played thousands of minutes of basketball at the game’s highest level, and he does it all despite suffering from asthma, a condition that’s affected him since he was a kid.

He sometimes uses inhalers courtside. He did that playing college ball at Arizona State University, and has continued throughout his NBA career, where he’s one of the most consistent players in the league.

Like Ben Simmons, he once dated a Kardashian

A few years ago, before Simmons was the scourge of Philly fans, he caused chatter with his on-again, off-again relationship with Kendall Jenner.

Harden has also gotten to know the TV-famous family, dating Khloe Kardashian for about 8 months in 2015. He once called it “the worst year of my life.”

He’s known to enjoy strip clubs

Harden’s fondness for strip clubs and partying has been well documented. (Could that be the reason the Sixers looked sluggish on the court after his first day here — showing him around town?)

One Houston strip club reportedly “retired” Harden’s Rockets jersey by hanging it in their rafters, and his reputation as the NBA’s “strip club king” was hailed by Sin City Philly in Southwest Philadelphia, which posted a welcome on Instagram.

He respects the Philly sports attitude

Even as an opposing player, Harden said he had a deep respect for Philadelphia basketball fans — or at least he’s really good at pandering.

“These fans are the best fans in the NBA,” Harden said this week. “I think a lot of teams say that, a lot of organizations say that, a lot of fan bases say that. But, like, ride or die — probably the best fans in the NBA, and I’m just happy they’re on my side.”

Let the news come to you

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter brings you the latest Philly news that everyone will be talking about in your Slack channel.

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Did you hear that?

That was the sound of you being informed after reading another BP article. If you believe local information should be free and accessible to all Philadelphians, will you support Billy Penn today?

Informing Philadelphians, one story at a time

Your generous donation brought this article to life. Become a sustaining member today to continue Billy Penn’s work.

Bring a friend into the Billy Penn-verse

Thanks for reading another story! Know a fellow Philadelphian that would appreciate BP? Tell them about our newsletter.