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Nets star James Harden on Rockets’ tribute in return to Houston: ‘Very special’

James Harden made his first appearance in front of a capacity crowd at Toyota Center since demanding a trade that shipped him to the Brooklyn Nets following an ugly, drama-filled spectacle early last season. Despite leaving on horrible terms given the chaos he created, Harden was welcomed back by the Rockets faithful with mostly open arms.

The warm welcome Harden received included a tribute video celebrating his contribution to the Rockets organization during his eight-plus seasons with the team.

It was clear Harden appreciated the gesture, as the 2017-18 NBA MVP made a heart sign with his hands.

“Very special,” Harden said of the tribute. “I spent some of my most amazing years here on the court and off the court… Lot of love. Lot of support, lot of family.”

It merits noting that the reception Harden received was somewhat mixed, as there was a smattering of boos that peppered the applause.

Harden returned as a member of the Nets last season in March — during which the Rockets did pay him a tribute — but it came in a mostly empty arena due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following his departure, Harden did apologize for the drama caused amid his trade demands and later admitted that his communication with the Rockets got a little shaky as the organization orchestrated a trade with Brooklyn.

The chaotic nature of his exit and the angst felt by the fan base in its wake notwithstanding, it’s clear his return was still a special moment.

“I was there eight years. My whole entire family is there. I’ve got a lot of things going on there. But just for me, obviously a lot of emotions,” Harden said, via the New York Post. “But for me, I’m trying to get a win. This is about racking up as many wins as we can.”

Harden unfortunately was unable to cap his night with a victory, as the undermanned Nets lost to the host Rockets by a score of 114-104 in a game that the Nets star posted a stat line of 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden of course failed to deliver a title to Houston during his Rockets tenure. Still, “The Beard” provided many magical moments and excitement during his time with the organization. Despite his tumultuous exit, it appears for the most part that Rockets fans appreciate all he did for the team and the city.