From the court to the rafters, James Harden’s legacy fills up Wells Fargo Arena

Feb 19, 2015, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:22 pm

James Harden walked the same path Wednesday night that he had dozens of times as a student-athlete at Arizona State University.

Out of the locker room, down a steep set of cement steps in Wells Fargo Arena, through a tunnel and onto a brightly-lit court, surrounded by fans in gold.

“Right down memory lane,” he said. “I walked the same way going down the stairs just like old times.”

He wore a crisp maroon two-piece suit this time instead of maroon basketball shorts; and yes, his signature beard is a little longer than when he wore an ASU jersey.

But the feeling he had to be back at Wells Fargo Arena, he said, was the same.

Harden had his jersey retired in a halftime ceremony during Arizona State’s 68-66 win over UCLA. The players said his presence may have amped them up a little, but they’re used to him, too — he plays pickup ball with them over the summer.

As a guy who’s leading the NBA in scoring and who is on pace to be its Most Valuable Player, the Houston Rockets guard may not know what it meant to the ruling set of Sun Devils to have him around.

“That definitely broadened our eyes,” said forward Savon Goodman, who is in his first year at ASU. “It was a pleasure having him on the sideline, I think it definitely boosted our energy…having the NBA leading scorer here supporting us.”

Added ASU head coach Herb Sendek, who recruited Harden way back when, “The entire Sun Devil community is just extremely proud of James…the thing that makes me feel so good inside is, he hasn’t changed. He’s exactly the same guy he was when he was here before all his successes.

“He just represents us the right way.”

At the half, Harden watched a tribute video made for him that recapped up his difficult-to-summarize collegiate career: All-American honors, 5-0 against Arizona, Pac-10 Player of the Year, to name only a few.

Then he watched his jersey unfurl from the top of the arena, and slowly lower into its forever-home in history.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “My mom got teary-eyed, she almost had me teary-eyed…that’s the thing, when you’re a kid you dream of…just for it to be happening now, I was caught in the moment. It’s an amazing feeling.”

He added, “That was one of the reasons I chose ASU, was to make sure I could leave a legacy here.”

And from the pressed gold jersey at top of the rafters to the funky foam beards the students wear to honor him, Harden has done just that.

He used to walk through the same building every day.

Now, he fills it.

Penguin Air

Arizona State Basketball

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)...
Arizona Sports

Pac-12 exploring all expansion options with USC, UCLA heading to Big Ten

The Pac-12 is looking into expansion following the decisions from USC and UCLA on Thursday to head to the Big Ten as early as 2024.
6 days ago
Basketballs are rolled off the court during the NCAAB game at McKale Center on January 03, 2022 in ...
Arizona Sports

Arizona ‘extremely disappointed’ in USC, UCLA leaving Pac-12 for Big Ten

The Arizona Wildcats broke their silence Friday regarding USC's and UCLA's plans to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten as early as 2024.
6 days ago
UCLA plays Oregon during a Pac-12 NCAA college football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., ...
Arizona Sports

UCLA, USC to leave Pac-12 for Big Ten in 2024

UCLA and USC will be leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, beginning in the 2024-25 season, the two schools confirmed on Thursday evening.
7 days ago
Arizona State guard Shannon Evans II (11) celebrates with the cheering crowd after a making basket ...
Wills Rice

ESPN’s Gasaway: ASU, Arizona’s best basketball transfers wins

ESPN’s John Gasaway took a stab at what he thought to be the best transfers in and out of each basketball program in Pac-12 history.
1 month ago
Pac-12 logo on the field during the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Tempe, ...
Associated Press

Pac-12 Conference suffers 36% decrease in revenue in 2020-21

The Pac-12 suffered a 36% decrease in revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to pandemic-related cancellations in football and basketball.
2 months ago
Frankie Collins #10 of the Michigan Wolverines drives to the basket against Fatts Russell #4 of the...
Arizona Sports

Arizona State lands Michigan transfer, former 4-star recruit Frankie Collins

Point guard Frankie Collins will transfer to Arizona State after playing one season at Michigan, he announced on Twitter.
2 months ago
From the court to the rafters, James Harden’s legacy fills up Wells Fargo Arena