James Harden says he has a new move in his arsenal for the upcoming NBA season. One of the greatest scorers in the history of the game has been targeted by defenses during his 10-season career, and he’s had to innovate. This off-season, he’s been demoing the maneuver on his Instagram, and encouraging others to try it out too: a running, one-legged three-pointer. If he’s serious about it—and despite the shot’s, well, unconventional appearance, he insists he is—it’ll probably work.
On the court, Harden usually has the ball in his hands, for up to 24 seconds at a time, and specializes in one-on-one face-offs. The bloodied eye he played through in the Western Conference semifinals last season was a little on the nose. But in conversation and in his dress, he’s looser and less single-minded. In a recent interview with GQ, the incoming Knicks rookie RJ Barrett named Harden, who’s known to enjoy a Dries Van Noten or Loewe shirt-and-shorts set, as one of the league’s leading style icons.
He also named Russell Westbrook, another former MVP. After Westbrook’s fairly shocking trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Harden’s Houston Rockets this past summer, most pundits focused on whether the two could share the ball, or the spotlight, once the season begins. But for now, Harden just has a new sneaker to launch. The latest edition of his signature Adidas shoe, the Harden Vol. 4, involves a collaboration with the streetwear designer Daniel Patrick. On Tuesday afternoon, he sat on a couch on the roof of Adidas’ West Village headquarters, wearing an untied “pink lemonade” colorway of them. He sprawled out intermittently as he weighed his style, his new-look team, and the season ahead.
Vanity Fair: The league has become such a runway of sorts. Is there a competitive aspect to that?
James Harden: It’s always been like a runway. But now, I think because of social media, it’s been taken to a whole other level. You have to be fresh every time you go to a game. Which is pretty dope, though, because you should look good. You’re one of the best athletes; you’re in the NBA.
This year you’ll probably have the best-dressed team in the league, between you, Russ—
Probably? P.J. [Tucker], Tyson Chandler …we might have the best-dressed team in the history of the sport.
Has there been discussion among you guys about that?
No, we haven’t spoken about it. You know how you’re so good, or you’re so confident, you don’t really gotta speak about it? That’s one of those things.
Any internal competition?
The competition is already there. First game of the season, you’re gonna see a lot of swag.
You have a key personnel change this season. A lot of the talk in the off-season has been about how you and Russ will play together. Of course, you’ve played together before, but what’s your approach to that?
It’s easy. We’ll figure it out. We’re two very smart, talented guys that want to win, and are willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes. And it’s not just me and Russell on the team. Clint Capela ’s gotten better. P.J.’s gotten better. Eric [Gordon]. We’ve got a young guy, Danuel House. We added Tyson Chandler. Austin Rivers. We got a lot of guys that can contribute and help us get to where we want to go. So it’s not just about me and Russ. We got a group of guys to get on the same page. That’s why we got an 82-game season: to help with that.
Advertisement Does the mood on the team feel different than in previous seasons?
It’s great. It’s like an energy boost that we had.
Fans look on Instagram, and they see you hanging out with Russ. Is that a message you wanted to send?
It’s always been like that. I love to hang around my teammates. I love the energy that we have. It’s not just basketball. Basketball is our job and what we love to do, but I genuinely enjoy being around P.J. and Clint Capela. We’ve been in Europe together. We were just working out in Houston together. Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, we were just in the Bahamas working out. Shout-out to the Bahamas. I’ve hung out with most all my teammates this summer, and I don’t post everything I do on social media.
Not that it’s all about your social media, but I see you with Houston rappers Travis Scott and Maxo Kream too. How much does it feel like your city at this point?
I’ve been there eight years. I’ve tried to establish myself in the community. I’ve tried my best to establish myself as far as the organization goes, and bringing a championship to that city. It’s the place that I call home. They’ve welcomed me, and I try to invest everything that I have—my energy, my family, everything—to that city.
Even my JH-Town Weekend charity event, where I give back to the community, and the mayor helps me with refurbishing courts, passing out a few hundred bikes to kids, school-backpack giveaways, and Thanksgiving-food giveaways. Christmas giveaways, interacting with the rappers and entertainers, and other athletes, from DeAndre Hopkins to Deshaun Watson to JJ Watt. It’s just who I am, man. And the city, they deserve it.
How did you get started working with Daniel Patrick?
He just had some fire clothes. I like the swag and his wave and everything…how he approached it, how he branded it. That was a few years ago, but now I see the collab coming to light. A designer’s thought process is already different. They have a different way of thinking, different way of putting things together. But it was just dope to actually be in meetings with him, and get his energy, and feel how he designs.
Courtesy of Adidas. What do you look for in a shoe?
A basketball shoe has to be able to perform on the court. That’s the ultimate thing. I didn’t want to have a shoe to wear just to play basketball; I wanted to have a basketball shoe where you know that’s James in a Daniel Patrick shoe. And it’s different from every other basketball shoe that’s out there. It’s fashionable, you can wear it off the court, and obviously it’s high performance on the court. That was the mind-set. It’s easy to have a shoe that looks very, very good, but you can’t perform in on the court. Whereas there can also be a shoe that you can perform in on the court that doesn’t look good. So we try to make both of those things mesh together.
Advertisement With your style of play, having the ball a lot, the shoes must take a lot of wear and tear.
That’s why we wanted to make sure that they’re still able to hold up when I’m doing my step-backs and Euro steps and all that good stuff.
A lot of quick movements.
But it also looks good when you’re doing those movements, so that was a component that we needed to have.
Growing up, what kind of basketball sneakers were you into?
I loved the Kobe Crazy 8s, the T-Macs, the A.I.s. I couldn’t get to all of them—I didn’t have the money for all that. But I loved the shoes because I loved the players. The players were killers; they were beasts on the court. And so now it’s dope to have your own shoe, and be in those same footsteps as those guys.
You’ve been encouraging kids to try out your new move, and they’ll wear your sneakers too.
That’s the inspiration that I have. When you have kids wearing your shoes and doing your moves, that just drives me to keep going and be the best person, the best leader, I can be, and keep creating, keep opening up new doors that some people might be scared to open up. Whether it’s trying new moves, or trying brand-new different clothes. Just being who you are.
Most people have seen that move. You have to give defenders something new to think about.
Every year they try to figure out how they can guard me. Then every year the points per game go up.
The landscape of the NBA has changed so much this off-season. How closely were you following all that?
Everybody was following that closely. It’s exciting. The league just continues to get better. Now you can say it’s spread out.
Does it feel like there’s an opportunity that there might not have been in previous seasons?
For me, I don’t care who I go against. Obviously we all know the team that was really very, very good for these last few years. They’ll still be good, for sure. You can’t overlook them. So I’m just excited for the new year. Another opportunity to bring home a championship.
Kevin Durant said in an interview published this week that he hates the NBA sometimes, because of all the noise outside of the game. How do you keep the clothes, the politics, the off-season maneuvering separate?
Stay away from it. I just try to live as normal as I can. And stay away from the politics, stay away from social media—stay away from all that stuff. Travel, stay motivated, stay focused on family, friends, and find that space every single day to clear your mind. Because he’s right: You can get overwhelmed at some points, especially when you involve yourself in it 24 hours a day. For me, I try to stay away from it as much as I can, and just try to smile, and try to just do things that make me happy. Once you do that, nobody can get you out of your space.
This article has been updated to reflect that only part of the Harden Vol. 4 collection is a collaboration with Daniel Patrick.
LINK ORIGINAL: Vanityfair