It seemed fitting that a day after James Harden dropped 36 points and led the Nets to a gritty win over the Los Angeles Lakers he found himself standing in the gymnasium where it all started.
Harden was honored by his alma mater, Artesia High School, in Lakewood, CA on Sunday when they retired his high school jersey. Harden led Artesia to back-to-back state titles in his junior and senior seasons and was named a McDonald’s All-American while earning second-team Parade All-American honors in his senior year.
“This is basically the school that raised me,” Harden told CBS Los Angeles. “Falling in love with the game of basketball, learning what friendships are about. Having a scheduled routine and today brings a lot of memories back. I got to see a lot of familiar faces, teammates, friends, teachers, and whatnot. Today was a great feeling.”
— Adam Harrington (@adampharrington) December 27, 2021
Harden appeared in 78 varsity games during his high school career and recorded 1,330 points over the course of his time at Artesia. He also made 112 threes, pulled down 584 rebounds, collected 273 assists, recorded 184 steals and 96 blocks.
Artesia was also where Harden began to wear the No. 13 on his jersey, which he has continued to wear all through college and into his NBA career.
“When I was a freshman, I had to choose my jersey number last, and it was between 13 and 52,” Harden told NBA.com. “I rocked with 13 just because it’s known for bad luck, but it’s done unbelievable things for myself and my family and the people I’m surrounded with. So I turned it into good luck.”
Harden certainly had some of that good luck on Christmas Day when he helped lead the COVID-hindered Nets to their fifth win in their last six games. Saturday’s game was Harden’s first in the lineup since Dec. 10 when the Nets faced the Atlanta Hawks.
Harden entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 14 and cleared it just two days prior to Christmas Day.