The Los Angeles Clippers’ trade to acquire 10-time All-Star James Harden from the Philadelphia 76ers ended a turbulent season for the East Coast team, but it also made the West team even more representative of Southern California.
Harden is an area native who attended Artesia High School in Lakewood, California. He joins Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook in Los Angeles — all of whom also attend high schools in Southern California.
When local youth visit the Crypto.com Arena to see the new-look team, it’s likely to be one of the stars on the court who once dominated high school wheels in a nearby town.
Harden returned to his alma mater in 2021 for a jersey retirement ceremony that took place one day after he and the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. Lakewood borders Long Beach and is located about 23 miles away from the stadium shared by the Lakers and Clippers.
“This is basically the school that raised me,” Harden said at Artesia’s event in his honor. “Loves the game of basketball, knows what friendship is, has a scheduled routine.”
After winning back-to-back state championships his senior year, Harden continued his basketball career at Arizona State. He was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Already familiar with the area surrounding his new team, Harden also recognized one of his teammates. He and Westbrook play for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets.
Westbrook was a standout at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale in Los Angeles County, California. During his senior year, he averaged 25.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.3 assists as he led the team to a 25-4 record. Like many others on the Clippers roster, he chose to stay in Golden State for college and committed to UCLA.
5-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard is possibly more Southern California than any other Clipper. He transferred to Martin Luther King High in Riverside California from Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley during his junior year.
In the 2008-09 season, Leonard put the Kings program on the radar. That year, he and Tony Snell helped the team to a 30-3 record and earned a No. 7 MaxPreps national ranking.
Leonard averaged 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.0 blocks per game in that effort and was named California Mr. Basketball. He went to San Diego State University before being drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 15th overall pick in 2011. He was traded to the San Antonio Spurs on draft night.
Snell played college basketball for the New Mexico Lobos and was drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls.
“It’s a dream come true for both of us. Our senior year playing, working out, and having this goal of becoming NBA players,” Leonard said in 2020 when Snell played for the Atlanta Hawks . “For both of us to be here. amazing.”
Paul George, a 6-time All-NBA selection, went to Knight High School in Palmdale, California. He averaged 5.4 points and three rebounds during his sophomore year on the varsity team. But he improved in his senior year, averaging 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.7 blocks per game en route to the Golden League championship. He went on to claim the league’s Most Valuable Player award. George didn’t leave home for college, attending Fresno State before being selected by the Pacers with the 8th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft,
The Clippers have Southern California roots in their reserves. Guard Norman Powell went to Lincoln high school in San Diego. He was a quiet star in high school who went to UCLA for college hoops. In 2015, he was selected 46th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. He won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He returned to his former state through a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2022.
Ultimately, the Clippers’ roster in California is a testament to the state’s basketball prowess. It’s also a great reminder that there’s no place like home.