NBA star James Harden recently made news by calling out Sixer team president Daryl Morey after reports that he would not trade Harden. “Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” he said. Harden made those comments while in China, where he is incredibly popular, and even later stated that he would like to play a season there.
He is under contract for another season, but in the summer of 2024, he will be an unrestricted free agent and will be able to play wherever he wants. That could be with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets, or even with a team in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). But would a former league MVP actually leave the NBA to spend a season playing in the CBA, or is he posturing?
Could James Harden leave the NBA for the CBA?
At age 33, it’s obvious that Harden is nearing the end of his career. How long that career lasts is up to him, since Harden hasn’t been known to take care of his body as well as he could. While fellow MVPs like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry are all still playing at a high level in their mid-30s, Harden has definitely taken a step back.
That drop-off has hurt his leverage since Morey knew that he was unlikely to get a max contract in free agency, which forced him to opt into the final year of his contract. Then, after he and the team agreed to work together to find a trade, only the Clippers registered interest, but not enough to meet the Sixers’ demands.
Now Harden is stuck in Philadelphia for the time being and forced to wait while the situation plays itself out. Presumably, he won’t play for the Sixers next season and will be with another NBA team, but the idea of him joining the CBA isn’t exactly farfetched.
While there may be a stigma around NBA players playing in China, since it is seen as a sign that they are no longer good enough to be in the league, it wouldn’t necessarily be the same for Harden. He could play another three seasons in the NBA, then retire before joining the CBA and spending the final season or two of his career playing in China.
Ultimately, while Harden is unlikely to play in China next season, there is a possibility that he could at some point in the future. Considering how popular he is already, doing so could be a great career move for him.