Tensions keep getting hotter and hotter between James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers as the calendar turns to September. Temperatures will begin to dip to comfortable levels next week, but not in the corner offices of the city’s professional basketball team.
The Harden saga is dragging on with no end in sight. Both sides have cooled off their public comments, for now. But a new bombshell report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne might set the pot boiling once again after the plugged-in reporter took readers “inside the feud.” She paints a picture of a contentious 2022-23 season that started with good intentions before transitioning into all-out war.
Sex, lies, and videotape? No. Promises, sacrifices, and betrayal.
Shelburne’s tale begins with a happy Harden smiling and complimenting teammates following a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers were 28-16 at the time. Everything was copacetic. Except James was already growing anxious about his forced role as a facilitator. The 10-time All-Star was taking a willing backseat to Joel Embiid, but the expectation was he would be compensated like the prolific scorer he has been throughout his Hall of Fame career. Shelburne sets the scene as such:
"After his first season in Philadelphia, Harden took approximately $14 million less than what he was due in a player option so the team could sign veteran forward P.J. Tucker away from the Miami Heat. It was sold by the Sixers as “sacrifice” to both Harden and the public — a line he dutifully repeated throughout the season. “You have to sacrifice to get to where you’ve never been,” Harden said that night in Los Angeles. “I’m in a really good space on the court and off the court.”"
Sometimes perception is reality, sometimes it isn’t. In this case, Harden had a much different definition of the word “sacrifice” than the Sixers’ front office did. Perhaps it is telling to revisit Harden’s comments after a 116-115 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Beard drilled a three-point dagger with 18.2 seconds left in overtime which proved to be the game-winner.
“I’m always motivated and fired up. It’s just that things don’t work out how I want them to sometimes,” Harden told reporters. “It’s a part of it. I’m a competitor. I always want to win, I always want to be aggressive, and I always want to do things to contribute to winning. That’s just me. There are no days off with that. There’s no turning it on and turning it off with that. Whether I have 40-something or 18 points, I always want to win the game. It’s simple.”