Houston Rockets guard James Harden has become one of the NBA’s most elite players and appears to only be getting better at this point in his career. Harden’s family and specifically his mother Monja Willis have been in the spotlight at various points over the years, primarily while at she’s been at her son’s games.
We’re going to take a deeper dive into Harden’s family, specifically involving his relationship with his mother, along with his two siblings. Unfortunately, it appears Harden’s father isn’t a big part of the guard’s life currently. We’ll start by looking at his brother and sister and what Monja had to say about their involvement in sports.
Harden Has a Half Brother, Akili Roberson & Sister Arnique Jelks
While Harden had a dedicated mother and a tough situation with his father growing up, he had two siblings as well. One of which was his half brother, Akili Roberson, who played football and was highly recruited out of high school, along with his sister Arnique Jelks.
Akili, who was older than James, spoke with Sean Gregory of Time.com and said his brother virtually always had a basketball in his hands.
“He carried around a basketball as if it was his job,” says Harden’s older brother, Akili Roberson. “I was like, ‘Dude, do you know how many people play in the NBA?'”
Harden surely knew this, but as Gregory revealed in the same story, the Rockets guard left a note for his mom in ninth grade with his signature that said “P.S. Keep this paper. Imma be a star.”
Harden’s Mother Got Her Kids Into Sports to Keep Them Out of Trouble
Harden’s mother, Monja Willis, stopped by to chat with the Blessed Beatz show on 93.7 in 2018 and touched on a number of topics. After being asked whether she was a big sports person growing up, she admitted that the real reason behind putting her kids in sports was to keep them active and out of trouble.
“Actually, I wasn’t. This was actually to keep my kids active and out of trouble. Being from L.A., and it’s probably just being from anywhere, you have to keep your kids under your wing.” Willis stated.
Harden’s brother, Akili, played football over the years which led to the question in the same interview as to why James didn’t get into the sport. Willis says Harden started playing basketball instead of football because he was taller. At the age of five, he wasn’t ready to play basketball just yet, so he started with baseball for a few years, playing first base and pitcher.
While Akili played football and James played basketball, Willis’ daughter Arnique didn’t play sports but wanted to be a cheerleader. The mother praises Arnique for following “her path” along the years.
Harden’s Brother Played Football for Kansas, Arena Football League
Harden has put together his own impressive career on the hardwood, while his brother Akili made a name for himself on the gridiron as a quarterback. During their mother’s interview with Blessed Beatz, she spoke about the many recruiting letters hanging all over Akili’s room.
As Dan Arritt of the Los Angeles Times detailed, Roberson could not accept a scholarship to Nebraska as he didn’t qualify academically. He proceeded to play at L.A. Southwest College and then went to Kansas after that. Following his collegiate career, Akili spent time in the Arena Football League.
Harden’s Father, James Sr., Wasn’t Heavily Involved In His Life
Numerous websites have pointed to a tough situation with Harden and his father, James Sr. during the NBA star’s early years. While James Sr. was in the Navy Seals at one point, he spent time in and out of jail due to drug issues. As Childhood Biography states, he would later come to his son’s high school games but James refuses to use ‘Jr.’ as a part of his name.
Fortunately, Harden’s mother Monja was incredibly dedicated to her kids, as briefly touched on above. But even beyond that, she was constantly around her kids and worked at AT&T for three decades before retiring. As ESPN’s Pablo Torre revealed in a story on Harden, Willis has been at a large number of her son’s games and even says she’s handled the job of being both parents.
“I was the mom and the dad,” Monja likes to say. Best estimates have her lifetime attendance at James Harden home games at 90 percent. – Torre wrote.
It’s obvious Monja and James have a close relationship, and the proof of that comes from her post-retirement move.
Rockets Star Bought His Mother a House in Houston
After hearing all the stories of the close-knit relationship Harden and his mother have, it’s not surprising to hear that he was more than happy to have her move to Houston. During the same story by ESPN’s Pablo Torre, Harden states that he and his mother have been “attached at the hip” since she retired in 2009.
So much so, that James bought his mother a house that was 20 minutes away from his own home at the time. Monja has become a household name in sports over Harden’s career, and she can be seen at Rockets home games often.