James Harden took a $14 million salary cut in an effort to win a title. Why hate? | Philadelphia 76ers

WJames Harden entered the NBA in 2009, and Kobe Bryant, the league’s highest-paid player, makes just over $23 million a year. Now, there are 50 players earning more than that, and the highest paid among them, Steve Curry, will make a hair over $48 million in 2022-23.

But when Harden turned down his option for a $47.3 million player next season to sign a new two-year contract (with a second-year player option) worth $68.6 million that would take a $14 million deduction next year, he became the first star player to take a cut of his salary that big. In the recent history of the league. After all, it’s not Dirk Nowitzki taking a team friendly deal at 39 or Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh losing two million early in their careers. Harden took a massive pay cut with the goal of helping his Philadelphia 76ers build a championship rival around himself and co-star Joel Embiid, reportedly telling Sixers head of basketball operations Daryl Morey to “improve the roster, sign who we need to sign and give me what’s left.”

This salary cut helped the Sixers sign veteran striker PJ Tucker to a three-year, $33 million contract, setting him apart from rival Miami Heat, who beat the Sixers in the 2022 playoffs. Embiid specifically mentioned that Tucker is someone who plays with some sort of The toughness and physique that the Sixers lack, saying, “Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said we had that kind of guy…we never had. [a] PJ Tucker. “

The Sixers also signed Danuel House Jr to a two-year, $8.4 million contract and Trevlin Quinn, MVP in the 2021-22 G League. The Sixers added depth, athleticism and shooting to a team that could have gone to the NBA Finals last year had it not been for the Sixers. Embiid fractured his orbit and ruptured his thumb ligaments during qualifying. They wouldn’t have been able to add these players – and improve their title chances – had it not been for Harden’s salary cut.

Harden is a former player of the year, 10-time All-Star, three-time scoring champion and has all possible individual accolades, but has never won an NBA championship. You might think that his willingness to do everything in his power to compete for a championship is commendable.

Instead, his decision to cut wages was met with derision from critics and fans – at least those who live outside Philadelphia.

ESPN’s Max Kellerman echoed a lot of people’s feelings when he said, “The reason I’m being sarcastic is… He does two things at once: He helps them sign with guys and everything, House and PJ Tucker — but really what’s that” It is to get extra money [guaranteed] $27 million and another year [on his deal]And maybe what he’s feeling now is: “I don’t know if I’ll have that in two years.” The promised extension formed a long-term secret outside next season.

But this is all just speculation, and nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, as a single injury at the age of 32 could drastically affect Harden’s future earnings. This was probably his last chance to cash in – especially with his skills seemingly deteriorating. But instead of signing up for his $47 million player option next season or taking the maximum amount as a free agent on the open market – which the Sixers would likely have matched, given they have so little clout they can’t watch him walk for nothing – Take a discount. This is what we know

“[I’m] sarcastic only because people often frame things as if they don’t care about themselves, and they always do care about themselves,” Kellerman added, at the same time, acknowledging that Harden rejected long-term extensions from both previous teams, the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets, because he didn’t He likes the direction the franchises have been headed in. So yeah, it’s a self-interested move, but not financially – perhaps the idea that people can have self-interest outside of money is one that some people find hard to fathom.

Aside from speculation about Harden’s hidden agendas, the tractor is the same people who criticize players like Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal for taking as much money as possible to stay with their mediocre franchises – those that fail to build championship-caliber teams around them over and over again – also criticized Harden for taking less money to try and win a championship. The same people who laugh at Chris Paul and Charles Barkley for not winning a title, will laugh at Harden taking a pay cut for trying.

Perhaps it was Harden’s past that was criticized in this way. After all, this is the same player who forced his Rockets to trade Premier Chris Paul for the ill-fitting Russell Westbrook because he became frustrated with the partnership. It’s the same player who made his way from the Rockets to the Nets after appearing unfit to play, and then from the Nets to the Sixers after being frustrated by Kyrie Irving’s situation, all within the span of a year. Not to mention the same player enjoying a good party. But is it fair to attack Harden to learn from his past and eventually join one team and do everything in his power to help them win?

Harden appears to be at a point in his career where he is willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team and, more importantly, his first NBA championship. After earning $269 million in his career on the court and more than $200 million from Adidas (plus more other sponsorships), Harden is ready to leave a significant amount of money on the table in order to fulfill a lifelong dream of winning a championship prize. This is a rather bad thing.

The real reason so many people are upset with Harden’s decision is either because they don’t like Harden based on what he has done in the past, or because they are simply jealous of the star player. they The favorite team will not do the same. That doesn’t mean other star players should feel pressured to take on an opponent like Harden did – only if they do, they should be praised, not questioned.

After all, it’s decisions like these that make a salary-specific league like the NBA more competitive. The Sixers can now realistically compete with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks in a playoff series, and that’s what makes good television if nothing else.

When it comes to creating a healthy work culture – something the Sixers have not succeeded in over the course of Embiid’s tenure – such a move could help foster a lot of goodwill among the rest of the roster, while potentially sacrificing other players. On and off the field for the greater good of the team.

The Sixers probably won’t win the championship this coming season, but sometimes the method is as important as the results. And by giving them a slightly better chance of winning a title when depth is more important than ever and when most superstars seem to focus more on maximizing their earnings than winning is commendable. And more than that, it can be an inspiration.

Harden could set a new precedent in the NBA for other stars to follow. Even if the Sixers don’t win it all, Harden can show the next generation that once you’ve earned enough individual awards and earned enough money, you can strive for it, no matter what the speakers say. Plus, if Harden wins a championship or even two, there’s no telling how much money he can make in sponsorship deals and post-career opportunities due to his success, like Garnett’s starring in Uncut Gems..

Harden could have taken the easy route and cashed in, but instead did what some superstars were willing to do before him and put his money where it is. Now we wait and see the impact of this decision on the future of the NBA.

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