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After getting traded to the Philadelphia 76ers during last season’s deadline, James Harden missed the window to pick up his player option for the 2022-2023 season.

With nearly $50 million on the table, all Harden had to do was opt-in and remain with the Sixers for the start of next year. 

Following Philly’s second-round loss to the Miami Heat in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Harden assured the public that he would be in Philly the following year and would do whatever it took to help the team win a championship.

Harden proved he wasn’t all talk. Not only did the ten-time All-Star return to the Sixers, but he declined his player option and re-signed on a more team-friendly deal. Instead of making $47 million next year, Harden will collect an estimated $33 million, according to Spotrac

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Harden’s decision to reduce his salary for next season offered the Sixers more space to make key signings such as P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, and Montrezl Harrell

On a recent episode ofThe Takeoff with John Clark,’ Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey considered Harden’s decision to take a pay cut one of the most significant contributions from a star player during a contract season. 

“He’s done more, I think, than maybe any star player’s ever done to take that much less money,” said Morey. “We just got Montrezl Harrell. We couldn’t have done that without him taking less money and constantly talking to Trez.”

Harden’s popularity in the NBA was expected to play a crucial part in Philly’s offseason moves. The fact that he played with Tucker, Harrell, and House in the past helped give the 76ers an edge in negotiations. 

Ultimately, the Sixers’ ability to make key signings this year came down to whether they were tied up with enormous salary demands from Harden or not. Fortunately, a selfless move from the star guard helped Morey and the front office build around the key core of Harden, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.