Aug 15, 2023 - Sports

76ers' James Harden drama rings a bell

Ben Simmons (left) and James Harden watch the ball on the court while holding their hands on their knees.

Ben Simmons (left) and James Harden. Photo: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

James Harden must not be a student of Philly sports history — because if he is, he'd realize that divas don't last long here.

The big picture: Just ask Terrell Owens and Ben Simmons. It doesn't matter how talented or successful you are, or how loudly you protest your circumstances, the team trumps all.

Driving the news: Harden ripped into 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey during a recent media event in China, twice calling him a "liar," days after the team shut down trade negotiations for the disgruntled point guard.

What they're saying: "I will never be a part of an organization that he's a part of," Harden said, referring to his boss, who has been one of the guard's biggest supporters over the years.

Catch up quick: For the past few months, Harden has fueded with the 76ers' front office over his contract after he opted into a $35.6 million player option in June, with the expectation that the team would find a suitable trade partner.

  • The offseason drama came after the 76ers flamed out in the second round of the playoffs, with Harden shouldering part of the blame for his inconsistent play.

Reality check: Harden's scorched-earth attempt to bully his way out of Philadelphia has all the makings of Ben Simmons Part II.

  • Simmons tried forcing his way out of town when his relationship with then-head coach Doc Rivers deteriorated.
  • He disrupted training camp and sat out the season before being traded for, of all people, Harden.

Flashback: Simmons didn't have the clout that former Eagles wide receiver Owens had when he arrived in 2004. He was a beloved member of the team, famously playing in a Super Bowl weeks after fracturing his leg.

  • Despite his prolific on-field production, Owens drained all the goodwill he built up with fans in a spat with QB Donovan McNabb, plus a similar thorny contract dispute. Owens overplayed his value and was eventually suspended for the season and sent packing.

The bottom line: This is a team-first town, where the banner matters more than any one player's brand. Harden's likely to find that out the hard way.


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