NEW YORK • The Beard has the richest contract in National Basketball Association (NBA) history.
The Houston Rockets signed guard James "The Beard" Harden to a four-year contract extension for about US$160 million (S$221 million) on Saturday, giving him a total six-year deal with US$228 million guaranteed.
Previously, the record was held by Stephen Curry, who agreed a record five-year, US$201 million "supermax" deal to stay at the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.
With Harden under contract on his existing deal for another two seasons, the extension will not affect Houston's aggressive pursuit of free agents this summer as they try to make a run at the Warriors.
"Since he arrived in Houston, James has exhibited the incredible work ethic, desire to win and passion to be the best that has made him one of the most unique and talented superstars in the history of the game," Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement.
Harden is coming off his finest season. Moving to point guard for new coach Mike D'Antoni, he averaged 29.1 points, an NBA-leading 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds and finished second in the Most Valuable Player race to former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Russell Westbrook.
Harden's do-it-all season helped the Rockets bounce back from a disappointing 2015-16 season that collapsed under the weight of chemistry issues with All-Star Harden and then centre Dwight Howard.
With Howard gone, the Rockets put Harden at the centre of everything they do on offence, and it paid off in a major way.
Houston went 55-27 in the regular season and beat the Thunder in the first round of the Western Conference Finals.
"Houston is home for me," Harden said. "Mr Alexander has shown he is fully committed to winning and my team-mates and I are going to keep putting in the work to compete for the title."
The mechanics for Harden's extension are new to the NBA in the latest version of the collective bargaining agreement.
He was named first team All-NBA, making him eligible for a lucrative, four-year "supermax" extension that gives him long-term security and also sends a message to the rest of the NBA that the Rockets are committed to stability as they try to challenge the Warriors.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE