All-Star Game Memories: James Harden _lowres

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) drives against Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

For the 2013 All-Star Game, guard James Harden may as well had been the mayor of the Houston.

That’s kind of how he felt. Maybe bigger. There was Harden, in his first year with the Houston Rockets after getting a new five-year, $80 million contract, and the game was in his team’s town.

“It was my first time being an All-Star,” he said. “So just being part of all the festivities and it being in Houston for my first one was extra special.”

He was one of the ambassadors for the Game, just like Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers are at this year’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, representing the Pelicans and as hosts for the NBA.

“Just being around all the guys, being around all the fans and doing different events, it was great,” Harden said. “I felt I was getting a lot of attention. It felt good to finally be recognized for my talents and whatnot. So that whole experience, and that whole year, was like a whirlwind for me.”

He said what he cherished most was the respect he received from the veteran players and how they embraced him. The fun part, more than playing in the game, was listening to them.

“Hearing all the stories from (San Antonio Spurs center/forward) Tim Duncan and (point guard) Tony Parker and all those guys, they’d been to several and bunches of All-Star Games,” Harden said. “So, they’d seen it all. Just listening to their stories was probably the most memorable part.”

Harden is in New Orleans for his second consecutive All-Star Game. He obviously will not be an ambassador, with all the attention it brings.

However, he has another avenue. Harden is one of the participants in the 3-point contest, which has a very strong field. Winning would bring some notoriety. That is, if he wins. However, in the future, how about something just a little more high-profile? Harden knew where that was headed.

“Definitely not the dunk contest,” he said, laughing. “I’m not that athletic.

“Maybe the skills competition or that contest with the old guys and the female basketball player (Shooting Stars).”