Harden: The Next King James

James Harden of the Houston Rockets

I’m going to make a prediction. Within two years, James Harden of the Houston Rockets will be the most famous athlete in the world. Let that sink in for a moment.

Within two years, NBA guard James Harden will be more recognizable around the world than LeBron James, David Beckham, Peyton Manning, Ronda Rousey, Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi, Mike Trout, Cristiano Ronoldo or anyone else that plays any sport, in any country, in any part of the world.

I’ll take that a step further. He’ll also be more recognizable than Michael Jordan.

There are several reasons why, and here they are:

  1. His new 13-year, $200-million shoe contract with Adidas is going to put him into a whole new stratosphere. Harden is already a star, and as close to being the MVP of the NBA that you can be without actually owning the trophy, but now he’ll be the centerpiece for Adidas. They will create a custom line of shoes around him, and the commercials will run more frequently than political ads two weeks before an election. The current Adidas NBA showcase star is Derrick Rose of the Bulls. Do you know anyone that wants to buy shoes he’s been wearing the last few years? He’s either suffering a knee injury or recovering from one. You know Harden’s commercials will be great, and Adidas will build a global brand around him.
  2. Harden is cooler than the Nike stars. I’m sorry, but the collective swag of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul doesn’t equal Harden’s, and even though Nike has Kobe and LeBron, King James is no longer in his prime and Kobe’s signature shoe these days should be a walking boot.
  3. His shoe will be a huge seller in China. Yao Ming cracked the door open for the NBA fan in China and here comes another Houston Rocket to kick it in.
  4. Harden’s beard makes him unforgettable. People all over the world will be able to recognize him and identify Harden because of that beard. It’s impossible not to remember him, especially once his new commercials air, and if the Rockets stay relevant in the playoffs. Harden’s agents better make sure they keep him far away from any razors.
  5. He’s dating Khloe Kardashian. If he stays with her and the relationship evolves, than he crosses over into the mainstream in a way no athlete in the world can. He’ll be everywhere — on magazine covers, reality shows, in entertainment news programs and in the public eye year-round, worldwide, around-the-clock.

The L.A. kid that came to Tempe, Arizona to play for Arizona State has done an amazing job of having a major shoe company “Show Him the Money,” ala a fictional Sun Devil in the movie Jerry Maguire. And within two years, I strongly believe James Harden will be the most recognizable athlete in the world. I didn’t say the best, and I didn’t say the most successful. But he will be famous. And rich, too! In fact, with that $200-million shoe deal coupled with his $78 million dollar contract with the Rockets, if he married Khloe Kardashian, he’d instantly become the 8th-richest person in the Kardashian family!

Executive Editor Tom Zenner is also sports anchor for ABC 15 Television in Phoenix. View his daily sports column at www.abc15.com

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