HOUSTON, TX - "Mom, I want to be an NBA player!" That's what the young James Harden told his mom, Monja Willis. His grit and enthusiasm has always made his mom smile. The superstar guard with the Rockets is known for his personality and "the Beard," but this is her baby boy.
He's the youngest of her three children. This no-nonsense mom,who prefers to stay behind-the-scenes and is known to many as "momager." "He has a big job on the court. While he's working hard on the court, I'm in the background, working hard for him." She has build a team to support her son. "It's hard to build a team. I don't just trust anyone, especially with my son's business.
When he was just a teen, James Harden shared his plan in the 11th grade. He told her then, "Mom, I'm going to be an NBA player!" His mom replied, "What else would you like to do, you know? Have a Plan B in case you don't make it to the NBA. I didn't know anything about the NBA."
In reality, it meant retirement for Monja after working for almost 30 years in AT&T service department. Servicing her son's career has different challenges with the demands, temptations and people that come with young NBA Millionaire status. "It can be scary, you know. It's a learning experience. i don't think a lot of people realize what you have to deal with. I have to remind him he's not the average guy. He has a label over him now and people come to him." She added, "I mean, he's a 27-year-old. what you expect him to do? Sit at home and knit."
She can handle the criticism of a being sports superstar, but sometimes it just goes too far. and this mama bear comes out. "You should read up and see what he does in the community." Harden's foundation has been feeding families during thanksgiving and organizing surprise Christmas shopping since 2012. Harden's foundation will also sponsor backpack giveaways and NBA celebrity basketball games and scholarships for local students. One scholarship is for a single mother, and it's named after her.
"i wasn't able to go to college. I feel like this fund will help the next young mother," said Harden's mom.