James Harden will begin the 2023-2024 NBA season on an expiring contract that pays him $35,640,000 for a year of work. His dissatisfaction with the Philadelphia 76ers and subsequent trade request stem from his belief that he would be rewarded with a long-term deal after taking a $15 million pay cut last season. Harden had previously turned down a three-year, $161 million extension offer from the Brooklyn Nets in hopes of signing a four-year, $227 million offer the following summer. However, after growing frustrated in Brooklyn and pushing his way to Philadelphia via trade, Harden opted out of his $47.3 million player option and signed a two-year deal with the Sixers that paid him less than expected.

Harden’s decision to turn down initial max extensions is unusual in today’s NBA landscape where players typically secure their money before requesting trades. This has led to some backlash as it appears teams no longer view him as a max player due to age and performance decline. As such, Harden has found himself upset at this predicament.

The Sixers’ president Daryl Morey managed to get what he wanted out of Harden: A star guard who would take less money to play alongside Joel Embiid while allowing room for additional team pieces. However, tensions have risen between Morey and Harden due to these contractual issues.