Is James Harden Planning to Leave the NBA for China?

James Harden is one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in the NBA, but he is also one of the most controversial and unhappy stars in the league. The Philadelphia 76ers point guard has made it clear that he wants out of the team, and he has been involved in a public feud with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. Harden has accused Morey of lying to him and not offering him a long-term contract extension, while Morey has reportedly demanded a steep price for any potential trade involving Harden.

by AP Photo/Matt Slocum

While Harden’s future in the NBA remains uncertain, he has not ruled out the possibility of playing in another country someday. In fact, he has expressed his interest in playing in China, where he has a huge fan base and a lucrative endorsement deal with Li-Ning. Harden is currently in China for a promotional tour, where he has received a warm welcome from his loyal supporters. He has also sold 10,000 bottles of his signature wine in just 10 seconds during a livestream event.

In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer , Harden praised the love and respect he gets from the Chinese fans, and said that they deserve to see him play in their home country.

“Every time I come here, the love is just like … it’s crazy, you know what I mean?” Harden said. “So I feel like they deserve to actually see me come play here. … Love is always crazy here.”

Harden’s comments have sparked speculation that he might consider playing in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in the future, either as a way to force a trade from the Sixers or as a career option after his NBA days are over. The CBA is known for offering lucrative contracts to former NBA players, such as Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, and Jeremy Lin. However, there are also some obstacles that might prevent Harden from making such a move.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer , under the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement, a player may be considered to have violated his contract if he “withholds playing services for more than 30 days after the start of the last season covered by his contract.” In that case, an NBA team can prevent a player from signing with another professional team. Harden, who opted into his $35.6 million player option for 2023-24, would have to risk losing his salary and facing legal action if he decides to play in China without the Sixers’ consent.

Moreover, playing in China might also affect Harden’s legacy and reputation in the NBA. While he would likely dominate the CBA with his scoring and passing skills, he might also be seen as giving up on his championship aspirations and settling for an easier competition. Harden has been criticized for his lack of playoff success and leadership in the past, and playing in China might reinforce those perceptions.

Harden’s situation with the Sixers is still unresolved, and it remains to be seen if he will report to training camp or hold out until he gets traded. His comments about playing in China might be sincere or just a way to pressure Morey into lowering his trade demands. Either way, Harden has shown that he is not afraid to speak his mind and explore his options outside of the NBA.

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