When James Harden arrived to the NBA in 2009 off a pretty impressive career with the Arizona State, no one expected him to become the star he did first for the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Houston Rockets, while his beard seemed to grow in relation to his development as a basketball player.
The Pac-10 player of the year in 2009 after averaging 20.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Sun Devils in 2010, Harden began a bit more timidly for the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing just under 23 minutes a night, coming off the bench to score 9.9 points per game and end up in the All-Rookie second team.
He became a much bigger part of the improving Thunder’s rotation in the second season (2010-2011), playing over 31 minutes a night in the postseason as the Thunder won their first playoff series together before losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals.
It seemed that everything came together for him and the Thunder in the next season, as he won the Sixth man of the year award, averaging 16.8 points per game in the regular season and 16.3 in the playoffs. Harden was a major force for the Thunder as they made the NBA finals, losing in five games to the Miami Heat.
Harden wanted a max contract, but the Thunder, struggling to remain under the luxury tax with Durant and Westbrook already being paid that much with Ibaka up for extension as well, sorta low-balled Harden, or gave him something that above it they couldn’t afford, which led to his eventual trade.
He landed with the Houston Rockets, and getting pretty much a free hand to do whatever he likes on the floor. The result? Showing he’s a superstar when given the chance, averaging 25.9 points per game, leading the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.