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The Philadelphia 76ers knew they employed a well-known NBA "villain" on their roster recently when they went out and traded for Jimmy Butler during the 2018-2019 NBA season.

In the months leading up to the blockbuster deal between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sixers, Butler infamously forced Minnesota's hand by showing up to practice and calling everybody out in a scrimmage he reportedly dominated.

Eventually, a championship-hopeful Sixers team became Minnesota's top trade suitor in the Butler sweepstakes, and they landed the always-chippy Butler. 

A recent list of top NBA "villains" of the decade put together by Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report expectedly includes Butler, but he isn't the only guy on the list with familiarity with the Sixers. Ranking three spots ahead of Butler is current Sixers guard James Harden.

The Explanation

"Much of the disdain for Harden during his run with the Houston Rockets seemed to be based on two main factors: flopping and aesthetics. Harden did a ton of the former. And having a game so exclusively built on isolations and trips to the free-throw line was just hard to watch. 

"Prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, Harden ditched training camp for extravagant celebrity birthday parties and trips to Las Vegas. He appeared to sleepwalk through much of his eight regular-season appearances with Houston that season before he was traded to the Nets. About a year later, when he'd grown tired of that situation, he loafed his way into another trade, this time to the Philadelphia 76ers. Shortly after that move, ESPN's Tim MacMahon quipped that Harden was "an elite quitter," an assertion that wasn't without merit."

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While BR considered Harden's run with the Rockets his peak villain days, the star guard still drew a ton of criticism for the way he forced himself out of Brooklyn to reunite with Daryl Morey on the Sixers.

Harden brushed off the criticism thrown his way throughout his first stint with the Sixers. Following his second game with the 76ers, Harden made it clear that he didn't have anything to prove to anybody.

While Harden went out on a relatively low note in 2022, as he struggled to make a difference for the Sixers against the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs, the ten-time All-Star is managing to change the perception surrounding him a bit this offseason.

Harden mentioned that he wants to do whatever it takes to help the Sixers win a championship at the end of Philly's 2022 playoff run. He stuck to his word by declining a $47 million player option and re-signing on a smaller deal to help clear up space to sign other key contributors in free agency.

A selfless contract move won't wipe away the "villain" perception surrounding Harden from the past, but it's safe to say he earned a lot of praise for taking a surprise pay cut to help his team out this offseason as the Sixers gun for a title. 

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