The quick answer is: James Harden has played for 4 NBA teams, they are Oklahoma City Thunder (2009-2012), Houston Rockets (2012-2021), Brooklyn Nets (2021–2022), and Philadelphia 76ers (2022-2023).
Basketball is an exciting sport. It’s a face paced game filled with big plays, tight finishes, and incredible athletes. The NBA takes that one step further by having an exciting offseason as well. More specifically, it has one of the best free agencies in all of the sports.
The reason for that is players, even superstars, are constantly changing teams and going to new organizations. Such is the case with James Harden. Despite being one of the best sharpshooters in the league, the guard has seen quite a few teams in his time.
We’ll look at which ones below.
Big, Getting Bigger
Harden’s career started off on a high note. He was the third pick of the draft, taken in 2009 by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and immediately had an impact on the league. Not only did he put up big numbers, but he filled in a key role for OKC as a strong second option.
Alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden scored, passed, and rebounded with ease. He was a key piece to that Thunder team, being able to both support and lead depending on what the situation called for at the time.
That trio was one the best in the league, taking the team to its first NBA Finals appearance and numerous deep playoff runs. However, after the Finals trip things got a bit sticky.
Harden largely enjoyed his time with the Thunder, and they no doubt saw him as a critical piece of the team. Still, when it came to pay him, things changed. The guard was set to enter into free agency in the 2012 offseason, and the Thunder didn’t make him an offer right away.
After much deliberation, they decided to give him a contract worth between $52 and $55 million. While the payment seemed solid, Harden felt like he didn’t get enough time to look it over. Spurned by the Thunder’s lack of action, he moved on.
A Trip South
Knowing that deliberations were at an end, OKC decided to trade Harden to the Houston Rockets. Though Texas didn’t seem like the best fit for Harden, it panned out extremely well for the sharpshooter. He finally had a team around him with plenty of playoff potential.
Not only that, but he was getting better as well. He did a great job of complementing the other superstars in Oklahoma, but thrived in the number one role. He quickly became one of the best three point shooters (as well as one of the best all around scorers) in the entire league.
In addition, as he did with the Thunder, he also turned the Rockets into perennial playoff contenders. He won an MVP award, had several deep playoff runs, and teamed up with superstars like Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook while in the Lone Star state.
He spent nearly a decade in Houston and almost became synonymous with the Rockets franchise. It seemed he would never leave. That is, until 2020.
Two Large Changes
While Harden had a clear role and good leadership in Houston, his relationship with the franchise quickly soured after general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni left. Unhappy with the absences, Harden demanded a trade during the 2020 offseason.
The Rockets granted his wish. It wasn’t long before he ended up on the Brooklyn Nets in a reunion with Kevin Durant. The two players, backed up by a strong cast, were set to take the Eastern Conference by storm. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
They had an early playoff exit their first year. After that, it wasn’t long before a huge rift opened up within the team. The locker room fell apart, and Harden quickly realized his dream of winning a ring wasn’t going to come true while in New York. He requested another trade.
That move landed him with the 76ers. While the team also didn’t see playoff success in his first year, they have a much stronger bond and a much brighter future than the Nets. Without controversy, Harden openly signed a two-year contract extension to stay in Philadelphia.
That’s where he plans to spend the next few years. Though he could move on from the franchise at a later date, it seems he’s found another place where he’s quite happy. With so much talent, it’ll be a surprise if he moves on.
Harden has consistently been one of the top scorers in the NBA. Still, he has played across four different teams during his time in the league. None of that is due to his skill, which is undeniable, but rather due to outside factors and his own competitive spirit.
The guard still has not taken home a ring. That’s what the Sixers offer him, and why it seems he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. He’s played on several teams and has had a great career, but the ultimate prize still eludes him.