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The championship title has proven elusive for James Harden so far in his career
  1. NBA

NBA - US Sports: James Harden in profile

James Harden won the MVP award in 2018, is a three-time scoring champion and a 10-time All Star but he is yet to get his hands on a championship.

The guard was drafted by Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009 and the spent a nine-year stint with Houston Rockets.  Harden joined Brooklyn in search of a title in 2021 but played just two half seasons with the Nets before opting to make the move to Philadelphia 76ers.

Harden played 33 games for the Sixers last season, 21 in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs, and the early signs suggest it is a good fit.  The 32-year-old signed a new deal in Philadelphia last week and they are 12/1 to win the NBA Championship outright.

We've taken a look over Harden's career so far and assessed his chances of claiming a ring with the Sixers. 

James Harden's rise to MVP

Harden played college basketball with Arizona State and after two seasons he declared for the NBA Draft in 2009, where he was selected with the third overall pick by Oklahoma City Thunder.

The guard enjoyed some success at OKC and won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award in 2012, but he played a supporting role behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook during his time with the team. 

After failing to agree an extension, he was traded to Houston Rockets in October 2012 and that proved to be the start of his rise to superstardom.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morley, who is now the Sixers president of basketball operations, saw Harden as a player Houston could build a team around and he posted some impressive statistics during his first season in Texas. 

Harden finished that season averaging 25.9 points-per-game - the fifth best in the league that year - 4.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists, as well as earning his first All-Star selection.

Harden averaged at least 25 points-per-game in all eight of his full seasons with the Rockets and picked up various individual honours. 

He was the assist leader in 2017 and then finished as the scoring champion in each of the three following seasons. 

His biggest individual achievement was being named MVP in 2018 and he finished second in the voting the following year, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks.

However, the Rockets were unable to reach a Finals Series during Harden's time with the team and his best playoff results with Houston were appearances in the Conference Finals in 2015 and 2018, losing to Golden State Warriors on each occasion.

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Forming a big three in Brooklyn

During the offseason in 2020, Morey and head coach Mike D'Antoni left Houston and Harden then requested a trade.

In January 2021 Harden was traded to Brooklyn to form what looked to be a formidable big three alongside his former OKC teammate Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets.

Brooklyn were widely expected to dominate the Eastern Conference and they were heavily fancied to go all the way and claim the championship in Harden's first season with the team. 

He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month in his first two months with the Nets, becoming the first player in NBA history to win the award in each of his first two full months with a new team, but injuries had an impact and he missed 18 games towards the end of the season.

The Nets would go on to lose in the Conference Semi-finals to eventual champions Milwaukee in the playoffs in what proved to be his only postseason bid with Brooklyn, as in February 2022 he was traded to Philadelphia 76ers.

Injuries and other factors meant that Harden, Durant and Irving only played 16 games together as a trio with the Nets.  Brooklyn had a 13-3 record in those games including 5-1 in the playoffs, and perhaps if circumstances had been different they would have been able to win a title together - but now Harden has another chance at team glory with Philadelphia.

Early signs of promise for Harden in Philadelphia

It is perhaps fair to say that Harden's first few months in Philadelphia were underwhelming.  In 21 regular-season games last season he averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds, and was down on all of those statistics in 12 playoff games.

However, he did start to form a partnership with Sixers talisman Joel Embiid and they should be even stronger next term after a full offseason together. 

Harden showed his commitment to the team by turning down a $47.4million player option for next season before returning on a new two-year, $68.6million contract - essentially accepting a pay cut to give the franchise salary-cap flexibility for next season, which in theory should allow them the chance to put together a stronger team.

At 32, Harden knows he only has a limited number of seasons left to claim a championship but alongside Embiid at Philadelphia he should have a real chance to go all the way in the season ahead.

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