James Harden has put up plenty of impressive individual numbers on the basketball court. For his career, he’s averaged just under 25 points and 7 assists per game, while hitting nearly 2,600 three-pointers. He’s made 10 straight All-Star appearances and seven All-NBA teams; he’s also a three-time scoring champ and won the 2017-18 MVP award.
While those individual accolades are great, Harden has something else on his mind: an NBA championship. And he’s willing to sacrifice money to make it happen.
Earlier during free agency, Harden declined his $47.3 million player option. The belief was that Harden would give up some money, but more than a week went by with no news. Turns out Harden was just taking his time. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium first reported Harden was accepting a $15 million pay cut so the Philadelphia 76ers could add some extra talent around him and Joel Embiid.
The deal is for two years and $67 million, per RealGM, with a player option for the second year. Harden will make $32 million next season — still a healthy salary — but it’s about 32% less than what he could have made by opting into his previous contract.
The move has already paid dividends for the Sixers. With the extra cap space, the team was able to re-sign Danuel House while also poaching away P.J. Tucker from the Miami Heat. Making a conference foe weaker while strengthening yourself in the process? That’s a pretty nifty move.
Harden came over to Philadelphia last season in a blockbuster trade for Ben Simmons. The Brooklyn Nets, Harden’s old team, were hopeful Simmons could join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in time for the playoffs, but Simmons missed the entire season. The Nets were swept in the first round of the playoffs, which had to feel good for Harden. Alas, his Sixers didn’t fare much better, losing in the second round to the Heat.
Still, Harden senses the potential in Philadelphia. And at 32 years old, he’s willing to give up some future earnings for a shot at his first title.