James Harden never dreamed he’d be an NBA All-Star and one of the top players on a championship-contending Rockets team that’s in the thick of a tight Western Conference playoff race for the top seed. Since being traded from Oklahoma City to Houston in the late fall of 2012, he’s learned that he takes a lot more punishment as the man for the Rockets. So he’s got to take better care of his body, and that means a new sport drink, better eating habits and an eclectic workout regimen.
Harden spoke with Dime about his new premium sports drink, Body Armor, his childhood basketball idol, and more right before he and his teammates were set to fly from Phoenix to Sacramento to play the Kings tonight.
A lot of our back-and-forth with James was lost due to background noise. We hope whomever was cracking everyone up on the Rockets plane, or possibly winning at video games, plays well tonight in Sac-town because it took us forever to make out what James was saying thanks to their exuberance. Here is a heavily edited transcript of our chat:
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DIME: How did you get hooked in with Body Armor?
JAMES HARDEN Body Armor was brought to me, explaining how they were different than the other sports drinks on the market, like Powerade, Gatorade and what not. It’s more natural. There’s no caffeine.
DIME: There’s a promo video of you with Body Armor, you say you have an actual stake in the company. Did you decide that when first tried the drink?
JH: Yeah, like I said, it’s good, it’s gonna blow up, and we just started it. I’m a huge believer in it. It’s natural and I think a lot more people will hop aboard when people realize the impact this drink will have.
DIME: You mentioned you do some different things in the offseason to get ready for the season, and mentioned rock climbing and bicycling as two ventures you do to stay in shape. How did you get involved in rocking climbing?
JH: You get bored and tired doing the same workouts. You can get tired of doing the same workouts. So, I’ve just tried to get some variety and mix it up a bit. Whether it’s hiking, spin class, or whatever to get me going.
DIME: What drew you to rock climbing. It seems like a pretty intense way to stay in shape?
JH: Yeah, a couple friends went one day and invited me to go. At first I was scared, but now I’m used to it. But once you get to the top, you can see the entire city of LA, which is pretty cool [Ed. note: that's where Harden is from]. It’s motivation and a workout at the same time.
DIME: How’s your elbow? [Ed. note: Harden hyperextended the elbow when he dropped 39 points on the Dubs in a losing effort]
JH: It’s all right. I play every single day with it. I’ve had a lot of treatments, a lot of ice on it. I’m just happy to keep playing and [inaudible].
DIME: You mentioned the change to a more nutritious diet. Did that come as a result of all the increased playing time and abuse you get as the primary scorer with the Rockets?
JH: Definitely. Definitely. I got a lot more minutes, a lot more possessions with the basketball; a lot more shots. So I have to make sure I’m strict with what I eat and what I drink; get the proper rest [inaudible] so I’m definitely strict on that aspect [nutrition] now.
DIME: We noticed that when you’re isolating at the top of the key, it can slow down the motion among the rest of the players. What can you guys do so you don’t remain stagnant when you’re isolating?
JH: It’s about spacing. I’m a playmaker, so my teammates create space in the right spots. [This is intermittently audible] If one of them is going to be able to get a shot. Sometimes when we are in transitions, we’re gonna have to move the basketball and play free. Our offense is a free offense, and freedom for us to make plays for each other.