James Harden’S Monumental Pay Cut With The Philadelphia 76Ers

In the ultra-competitive world of the NBA, every dollar counts towards building a championship roster. Stars routinely take less money to chase rings. So when James Harden opted out of his $47.4 million player option with the Philadelphia 76ers for 2022-2023 to sign a new 2-year $68.6 million deal, it sent shockwaves around the league.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: James Harden took a massive pay cut from $47.4 million down to $33 million for the 2022-2023 season to allow the Philadelphia 76ers to strengthen their roster around him and Joel Embiid in pursuit of an NBA title.

James Harden’s Previous Contracts and Salary History

Before delving into James Harden’s monumental pay cut with the Philadelphia 76ers, it is important to understand his previous contracts and salary history. Throughout his career, Harden has been one of the highest-paid players in the NBA, commanding lucrative contracts that reflect his exceptional talent on the court.

Max contract with the Houston Rockets

During his tenure with the Houston Rockets, James Harden signed a series of massive contracts that solidified his status as one of the league’s premier players. In 2016, he signed a four-year extension worth $118 million, which at the time made him the highest-paid player in NBA history.

This contract included a player option for the final year, allowing Harden to have more control over his future.

Following the expiration of his initial extension, Harden and the Rockets agreed to another extension in 2017. This extension was a supermax contract, which meant that Harden would earn a percentage of the team’s salary cap.

The contract was worth a staggering $169.3 million over four years, making it one of the largest contracts in NBA history.

Trade to the Brooklyn Nets and decline

In January 2021, James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a multi-team deal that sent shockwaves throughout the league. As part of the trade, Harden agreed to restructure his contract and accept a lower salary in order to facilitate the move.

This decision was seen as a sign of his commitment to joining a championship-contending team.

However, during his time with the Nets, Harden’s production and efficiency dipped compared to his years with the Rockets. This decline, coupled with injuries that limited his availability, raised questions about his ability to perform at an elite level.

Despite these challenges, Harden remained a key contributor to the team’s success and helped lead them deep into the playoffs.

End of season trade to the 76ers

At the end of the 2020-2021 NBA season, James Harden was traded once again, this time to the Philadelphia 76ers. As part of the trade, Harden agreed to take a significant pay cut in order to join forces with Joel Embiid and form a formidable duo in Philadelphia.

This pay cut was a testament to Harden’s desire to win a championship and his willingness to prioritize team success over individual financial gain. While the details of his new contract with the 76ers have not been made public, it is clear that Harden was willing to make personal sacrifices in order to chase his ultimate goal.

Why Did Harden Opt Out and Agree to a Pay Cut?

James Harden’s decision to opt out of his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers and agree to a pay cut was not a move made in haste. It was a carefully considered decision that involved several factors.

To allow 76ers cap flexibility to improve roster

One of the main reasons why Harden chose to take a pay cut was to give the 76ers more cap flexibility to improve their roster. By lowering his salary, the team can now pursue other players and make necessary adjustments to create a stronger team.

This selfless act shows Harden’s commitment to the success of the team and his desire to bring a championship to Philadelphia.

Chance to win first championship entering his 13th season

Entering his 13th season in the NBA, James Harden is still in pursuit of his first championship. By taking a pay cut and joining forces with the 76ers, he saw an opportunity to increase his chances of winning a title.

The 76ers have a talented roster, led by Joel Embiid, and Harden believes that together they can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship.

Commitment to Embiid and 76ers long-term

James Harden’s decision to take a pay cut also reflects his commitment to Joel Embiid and the long-term success of the 76ers. By restructuring his contract, Harden is showing his belief in Embiid’s leadership and the potential of the team.

This move not only strengthens the bond between the two stars but also sends a message to the rest of the league that the 76ers are serious contenders.

How Harden’s Pay Cut Benefits the 76ers

James Harden’s monumental pay cut with the Philadelphia 76ers brings a multitude of benefits to the team. Let’s take a closer look at how this decision positively impacts the franchise.

1. Allowed signing of P.J. Tucker and Danuel House

Harden’s pay cut created much-needed cap space for the 76ers, enabling them to sign valuable role players like P.J. Tucker and Danuel House. Both players bring defensive prowess and three-point shooting to the team, complementing the skills of Harden and Embiid.

The addition of Tucker and House strengthens the 76ers’ roster and enhances their chances of contending for a championship.

2. Provides flexibility at the trade deadline

With Harden willingly taking a pay cut, the 76ers now have greater financial flexibility at the trade deadline. This allows the team’s management to explore potential trades and make necessary moves to improve the roster.

Whether it’s acquiring a star player or adding depth to the bench, the 76ers can now be more aggressive in pursuing trade opportunities, thanks to the financial flexibility provided by Harden’s pay cut.

3. Future cap space to build around Harden & Embiid core

Harden’s pay cut not only benefits the 76ers in the short term but also sets them up for future success. By freeing up cap space, the team now has the opportunity to build a strong supporting cast around the dynamic duo of Harden and Embiid.

This means that the 76ers can attract and retain talented players who can contribute to the team’s success for years to come.

According to NBA.com, the 76ers’ front office is optimistic about the potential of this core and believes that the financial flexibility provided by Harden’s pay cut will play a crucial role in building a championship-contending team.

Potential Downsides and Risks for Harden

Injury could impact next big contract at age 33

While James Harden’s decision to take a monumental pay cut with the Philadelphia 76ers may have been a strategic move to pursue a championship, there are potential downsides and risks he needs to consider.

One significant concern is the possibility of sustaining a major injury that could impact his future earnings.

At the age of 33, Harden is entering the later stages of his career where injuries become more common and recovery time tends to be longer. This raises questions about his ability to maintain his performance level and secure a lucrative contract in the future.

It’s important to note that the risk of injury is inherent in any professional sports career, and while Harden has been relatively durable throughout his career, there is always the chance for an unforeseen event to occur.

Injuries have derailed the careers of many talented athletes in the past, and Harden is not exempt from this possibility.

While Harden’s decision to take a pay cut may have been influenced by his desire to win a championship, he must also weigh the potential financial consequences of a career-altering injury. It is a calculated risk that he will need to navigate carefully.

Leaves money on the table without a title guarantee

Another potential downside of James Harden’s pay cut with the Philadelphia 76ers is the possibility of leaving money on the table without a guarantee of winning a championship. By taking a significant reduction in salary, Harden is essentially betting on the team’s ability to compete for a title.

While the 76ers have shown promise in recent seasons, there are no guarantees in professional sports. The NBA is filled with talented teams and players, and winning a championship requires a combination of skill, teamwork, and luck.

If the 76ers fail to achieve their championship aspirations during Harden’s tenure, he may end up sacrificing a substantial amount of money without the ultimate reward. This could be a disappointing outcome for someone who has been one of the league’s top players and consistently among the highest-paid.

However, it is worth noting that the decision to take a pay cut is not solely based on the pursuit of a championship. Harden may have other motivations such as playing alongside talented teammates or enjoying a change of scenery.

Nonetheless, the financial implications of not winning a title should be considered.


James Harden’s unselfish decision to take nearly a $15 million pay cut next season has positioned the Philadelphia 76ers as legitimate title contenders in 2023. With Harden and Embiid committed long-term, droves of veterans are signing on board to chase a championship.

The Eastern Conference arms race is spiraling upwards and Harden’s pay cut catalyzed Philadelphia into pole position. Now it’s up to Harden to reward the franchise’s trust in him by delivering his first-ever NBA championship.

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