Every year, NBA players work toward one ultimate goal: an NBA championship. Sure, there are other benefits to playing in the league, from the potential to earn hundreds of millions of dollars and grow your personal and professional brand through partnerships. But winning a ring is top of mind for just about every player.
That's particularly true for James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers. The veteran guard was traded from the Brooklyn Nets midway through last season, and though his new team advanced further in the playoffs, the 76ers still fell short of a title, losing in the second round to the Miami Heat.
Harden sees the potential around him, though, and he's willing to give up money for a shot at a championship.
Harden turned down his $47.3 million player option for next season. The move gives the 76ers flexibility to improve their roster — they now have the full $10.5 million exception and a $4.1 million biennial exception. Both of those spots could be used for additional veteran talent. The team could also make sign-and-trade moves to try and bring in the right pieces.
By opting out, Harden is showing a commitment to the 76ers. He's 32 years old and may not get another shot at a max contract. Instead, he'll sign for anywhere between one and four years at a discounted rate and play alongside Joel Embiid, who's been an MVP candidate the past couple of seasons.
It's also an easy decision for Harden, considering his career earnings. He's made just about $272 million since entering the league in 2009.
Harden played in 65 games last season for the Nets and Sixers, averaging 22.0 points and 10.3 assists. In a bit of a comedic twist, Harden's former team is in turmoil. Though Kyrie Irving just opted back into his contract, Kevin Durant requested a trade, so he's likely on the way out. Meanwhile, the Nets still don't know what they'll get with Ben Simmons, who came over from Philadelphia in exchange for Harden. Simmons sat out all of last season as he didn't feel mentally ready to return to the court.
It appears Harden got out of a bad situation just in time. And now, he's offering a discount to his new team, giving them a better opportunity to win a championship. We'll see if the move pays off.