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James Harden's mom also his biggest fan

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Stormy1234, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. Stormy1234

    Stormy1234 Member

    Sep 16, 2015
    Likes Received:

    James Harden's mom also his biggest fan
    By Brian T. Smith

    April 15, 2017 Updated: April 15, 2017 10:48pm[​IMG]

    The Rockets are beating Oklahoma City to death when James Harden's mom bounces into the room.

    A sparkling No. 13 necklace hangs around Monja Willis' neck. She has left a baseline seat near the heart of Toyota Center's hardwood, which features No. 13 stitched in red on the top cushion and "MONJA" resting above her son's ever-present number.

    Right before Willis proudly asks if I've seen Harden's heavily bearded face on a magazine cover normally reserved for zany Texas politicians, best hidden vacation spots, and how cool Austin is, she glances around the suite and asks if I'm hungry.

    "You want something to eat?" said an energetic Willis after watching the Rockets smack Russell Westbrook's Thunder for 79 first-half points during the final regular-season matchup between The Beard and Brodie on March 26.

    An echoing MVP chant already honored her son's name. The roar reaches peak volume at the end of the third quarter as the Rockets are coasting by 25, Westbrook is on the verge of padding his stats during garbage time, and a beaming Harden is popping his jersey like he's still a kid at Arizona State and his mom made the long drive from Los Angeles just so she could watch her child play.

    Willis always has been there and will never leave. From Kevin Durant, OKC, Sixth Man of the Year and the 2012 NBA Finals to Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Kevin McHale, Dwight Howard and Khloe Kardashian. From a basketball court in a tough street and drive-by shootings in south L.A. to the undisputed face of a franchise, the Mike D'Antoni Show, 55-27, and a home in Houston.

    There's Harden, a should-be MVP who has made his Oklahoma City self feel like a simple dream. Then there's the mother always watching her lucky No. 13.

    "In life, if you have somebody that is there for you no matter what … that's important," said Harden, who'll stare down Westbrook again Sunday during Game 1 of a Western Conference first-round matchup against the Thunder. "You feel more comfortable with yourself. You feel like somebody always has your back.

    "So for me, I go out there, and I might make mistakes in life. But I know that no matter what, somebody has my back, and that's what gives me the confidence to go out there."

    Personal driver

    Willis drove Harden everywhere.

    High school started at 8 a.m. Harden's mom took him to the gym at 6, just so he could get in a full workout before class began.

    There was baseball, softball, basketball and all the things that kids need and do. There was a single mom raising three children while working nonstop at AT&T - 28-plus years; full benefits after finally retiring - and often picking up extra hours just so she could later be off to take Harden to the games he had to play in.

    "I've been knowing her for years, and her and my mom are really good friends," Rockets guard Pat Beverley said. "They have the same kind of background. Any woman that can do that is an extremely strong woman.

    "You can tell by her actions - the way she takes care of business, the way she takes care of family."

    Harden's love for basketball initially made his mother nervous. The closest court was around the corner and in the street, where there were drive-bys and random violence. Willis moved to a gated community so she could better protect her son from the outside world.

    "I could keep him inside the perimeter," she said.

    When Harden's life started opening back up and he reached the 11th grade, Willis demanded that her son have two plans: A and B. Harden told his mother he had one. He was going to play in the NBA.

    "I'm sitting in the car thinking, 'OK. All these kids say that,' " Willis said. "But still, I'm thinking … 'OK, James. Somebody out there is probably better than you. And I don't know if it's going be like a needle in a haystack for you to go and be an NBA player.' So I said, 'You know what? If that's what you want to do, you know what you have to do to get there.' "

    Harden started just seven games during his initial three pro seasons in OKC. Five years later, he's already one of the greatest players in Rockets history.

    "It has been (amazing)," Willis said. "I'm sitting next to (Rice) coach Scott Pera, and we're going back to when (Harden) was in high school, and this is just so real. I don't know where I am."

    No MVP debate for her

    When the Rockets fell apart last season and Harden lost his way, his mother was always around as an open ear.

    She never pressed, though. And when too much time passes and Harden doesn't hear from his mom, it's No. 13 who first texts "Yo."

    "When you get ready to vent, then you'll vent. But other than that, you've got to handle it on your own," Willis said. "Because he is 27 years old and I have to step back and let him - this is his job. I can't do nothing but embrace him and let him know that I'm here for him. … Sometimes I could see his frustration, and then he'll vent to me. Of course, I always have an opinion."

    Especially about the MVP. Just mention those three endlessly debated letters, and the suite goes silent.

    "I mean, really. Are you really asking me this?" Willis said.

    She paused.

    "Go, James!"

    And don't ever try to tell the mom who drove her son everywhere that you - in the stands or watching on TV, wearing a red No. 13 and sporting a fake beard - are the biggest supporter of the biggest sports star in this city not named J.J. Watt.

    "I get offended when people say, 'I'm his biggest fan,' " Willis said. "No, you're not. I am."

    Keeping it real

    The mother uses "happy," "amazing" and "love" to describe the state of her son.

    A year after unofficially being the most frustrating team in the NBA, the Harden-D'Antoni Rockets have officially been the most fun.

    "It's hard sitting on the floor, because I can't yell and jump up and down like I really want to," Willis said. "Oh my gosh. I'm like, 'Can y'all not show me (on TV) today?' "

    Even with the MVP chants, magazine covers in the grocery aisle and constant national TV coverage of her son versus Westbrook, Harden's mother still sees him at least once a week off the court and can always reach him when she needs to.

    "I'm still his mom," Willis said. "I'm still going to talk stuff. Nothing has really changed. Like he said, I'm stuck to his hip.

    She's real.

    "You have to be," Willis said. "If you don't go through the trials and tribulations, then you're not living."

    She's still the adult voice telling a boy to just be himself.

    "Go out there and play your game," she said. "This is your game. Don't let nobody take you from your game."

    She's always been there and always will be.

    "She won't leave me," Harden said smiling. "It's a good thing."
  2. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum It. Deserves. Its. Own. Thread.
    Supporting Member

    May 2, 2014
    Likes Received:
    media conspiracy. wait . . . can a mom even BE part of the media conspiracy???? discuss. :cool:
    Stormy1234 likes this.
  3. Rodman23

    Rodman23 .GIF

    Jun 26, 2012
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  4. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

    Oct 27, 1999
    Likes Received:
    No Only daughters. They are sneaky where moms like Durant's and AI's failed.

    Os Trigonum likes this.

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