Harden signed a four-year, “supermax” extension wholesale sports jerseys on Saturday, a whopper of a deal that guarantees Harden about US$228 million over the next six seasons and makes it the richest contract in league history.
The extension alone tacks another US$170 million or so – depending on how the salary cap escalates – on to a contract that still had two more years and nearly US$60 million remaining.
It’s a mammoth deal befitting one of the league’s brightest stars, which is exactly what “the Beard” has become in five seasons with the Rockets.
“Since he arrived in Houston, James has exhibited the incredible work ethic, desire to win, and passion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and talented superstars in the history of the game,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement issued by the team.
“Additionally, the commitment he has shown to our organisation, the city of Houston, and Rockets fans all over the world makes him a perfect leader in our pursuit of another championship.”
The deal keeps Harden under contract through the 2022-23 season, a lifetime in the modern NBA financial landscape in which so many superstars take short-term deals to maximise their earning potential.
While anything can happen, this is about as much security as a player can get.
Harden is coming off of his finest season. Moving to point guard for new coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden averaged 29.1 points, an NBA-leading 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds and finished second in the MVP race to former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook.
“Houston is home for me,” Harden said. “Mr. Alexander has shown he is fully committed to winning and my teammates and I are going to keep putting in the work to get better and compete for the title.”
Most importantly for the Rockets in the immediate future is that the extension will not affect Houston’s aggressive pursuit of free agents this summer as the Rockets try to make a run at the Golden State Warriors.
The Rockets finished third in the Western Conference regular season last year but know they have plenty of ground to make up if they hope to truly challenge the defending champions.