Since coming into the NBA in 2009, Houston Rockets guard James Harden has developed into one of the best pure offensive players that the league has seen. Harden has shown the ability to create space and separation from defenders, using a herky-jerky style that looks unconventional, but has been wildly effective for him. That style of play is one reason why Harden won the 2017-18 NBA MVP award.
Harden’s unique method of play has inspired a number of copycats around the league who have tried to emulate Harden’s success at getting open shots, using his physical ability to start and stop rapidly, and creating contact that gets him to the foul line. All of that was on Harden’s mind when the time came to start designing the latest version of his signature shoe, the Adidas Harden Vol. 3. What sets Harden apart from other players in the league is his ability to “Slow Down Fast,” and that was one of the main inspirations behind the signature shoe.
“To design this shoe, I had in mind the importance of my first step, how I stop-and-go, and my ability to change directions,” Harden told Men’s Journal. “Those aspects are important to my game, and we wanted to convert all that into the shoe to allow me the ability to move how I need to. Every year I try to figure out a way to create an advantage on the court and create space, and that’s the inspiration for the design of the Vol. 3.”
Harden’s Impact on Designing the Harden Vol. 3
Harden was very involved in the design process of the shoe, taking part in conference calls, picking out different colorways, and making visits to Adidas headquarters in Portland, Ore. to help bring it to life.
“There’s an authenticity to it, because I don’t know how many guys out there are involved in every process of their shoe line,” Harden says. “Some guys will just have it presented to them and then slap their name on it, but for me, I wanted to put work into this and help design it. Everything from the materials used, to the way it looks, to the colorways, trading business emails, doing conference calls, to meeting with the Adidas team. It feels good to see the finished product after all that.”
Harden’s training played a part in how he wanted to design the shoe as well. Everything Harden does on the court starts with his training in the offseason. While Harden works with Rockets trainers, he also works alongside trainer Greg Howell, who Harden has known since he was a kid.
“I think with each shoe, they’ve gotten more and more comfortable,” Howell says. “I loved the Vol. 2’s, and then when I got my hands on the Vol. 3’s, I liked those even better. You can feel you’re locked in, and they’re comfortable, but not restrictive. It keeps your Achilles stable and strong with that high back heel, it helps you start and stop on a dime, which is what James needs to play at his best. James is a creator, and this Vol. 3 helps him work on those moves and I think all of that has contributed to the evolution of the shoe and the evolution of James’s game.”
The way Harden trains directly impacts how he plays on the court, and the training is where Harden will test out things and try new things to use in his game.
“Training and doing work is a lifestyle for James,” Howell says. “He really is a creator in every space he’s in. His mind thinks differently and I think him being left-handed helps his creativeness on the court, and his unorthodox way of doing everything. It’s his own creative way, from the step-backs to the small twitches and angles he uses in all his moves. He will just try something out when we’re working, like a different type of step back angle and it’ll slowly progress and he’ll work on it until it’s ready. He’s being creative and intuitive using the NBA gather rules to his advantage, and yeah some guys hate it, but now you see other guys doing it. He’s setting the trend for guys out there—he’s a creator in his mind and he just loves to work on things and it’s a skill just like being the best shooter, best dribbler, or whatever. That’s what he brings to the table.”
Harden’s Love for the City of Houston
The look of the shoe was heavily inspired by Harden’s game on the court, but there also was a lot of inspiration from the Houston itself. The new colorways and the shoe itself were inspired by the way Harden creates space on the floor, and Houston’s ties to outer space as the home of NASA.
“It was very important to have Houston in there,” Harden says. “The city gave me this opportunity, and I think if it wasn’t for Houston and the Rockets I wouldn’t be where I am. The fact that NASA and the space industry has a presence in Houston, I wanted to incorporate that as well. The NASA idea, I can use that metaphor to represent how I create my space on the court, it all plays a part in who I am and what I bring to the table. We wanted to bring those shoes to life, and make sure we pay homage to Houston.”
The design of the shoe—and Harden’s game on the court—all plays into the mindset that Harden isn’t afraid to take risks. Whether it’s in fashion, playing basketball, or other aspects of his life, Harden feels like he’s always willing to try something new to see if it works, without worrying about the final results.
“As a person, I’m just a risk-taker,” Harden says. “I’ll try new things on the court, work in different moves, create different moves, and my one of my mottos is, ‘you never know until you try it.’ I’m comfortable doing it and I live with the results afterwards whether they’re good or bad. That’s just how my brain works, and you know sometimes my moves might be a little weird, or awkward-looking, but hey, it’s been working.”
Harden’s Houston Hangouts
To help debut the Vol. 3, Harden shared some of his favorite places in the Houston area. Here’s the rundown of Harden’s favorite hotel, restaurants, and fun activities in the city.
The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston: Harden’s recommended hotel in Houston is the only AAA Five Diamond destination in the city. The hotel has numerous dining selections, as well as a a two-story Rolls Royce showroom, views of downtown Houston, and beautiful rooms. (See more here.)
Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse: This is Harden’s go-to restaurant in Houston. You can have steak, great wine, seafood, and much more. Harden’s favorite dishes are: the Pan Roasted Chicken, Atlantic Salmon, and King Crab with Brussels Sprouts. (Check out the menu here.)
The Breakfast Klub: There’s always a line out of this breakfast spot in Houston, and for good reason—the food is excellent. From chicken and waffles to other local specials, there’s something for everyone here. (Check out the menu here.)
Bowlmor Houston: When Harden wants to wind down, one place he loves to come is Bowlmor. The location has 39 lanes, video walls playing movies and sports, as well as a sports bar and arcade. Harden isn’t the only area athlete to play at Bowlmor—Houston Texans players, Astros players, as well as various Houston musicians and artists also love to stop by and play a few games. (Check out more here.)
Here’s a few more looks at the shoe and some of the colorways:
Harden Vol. 3 Voyager ($140 at adidas.com)
Harden Vol. 3 Supernova (on-sale 11/16, $140 at adidas.com)
Harden Vol. 3 Mission 13 ($160 at adidas.com)
Harden Vol. 3 Invader (on-sale 11/6, $140 at adidas.com)
The Harden Vol. 3
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