James Harden ties embarrassing MVP record with Clippers trade

With the early Tuesday morning trade of James Harden to the LA Clippers, the 2017-18 NBA MVP has joined a dubious group of former MVPs to be traded the most.

Portland Trail Blazers v Philadelphia 76ers
Portland Trail Blazers v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The months-long James Harden saga ended in the middle of the night, with the Philadelphia 76ers sending the unhappy star to the LA Clippers early Tuesday morning, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With the deal, Harden joins three other former NBA MVPs to have been traded four times in their careers. It is the third time The Beard was traded since winning the MVP award with the Houston Rockets in 2017-18.

Entering the 2012-13 season, Harden was eligible for an entry-level contract extension when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded him to the Rockets. After the deal was done, he signed a five-year, $78.8 million extension with Houston.

But in January 2021, Harden wanted out of Space City and was eventually sent to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a four-team trade. A little more than a year later, he asked out of Brooklyn and wound up with the 76ers in the deal that sent disgruntled Ben Simmons to the Nets in February 2022.

Tuesday morning's trade was the fourth of his career, matching former MVPs Bob McAdoo, Moses Malone and Russell Westbrook.

McAdoo and Westbrook are the members of the dubious list to have been swapped four times after winning their lone MVP trophies.

Named MVP for the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75, McAdoo was traded to the New York Knicks in December 1976, dealt to the Boston Celtics in February 1979, swapped to the Detroit Pistons in September 1979 and finally sent by the New Jersey Nets to the Los Angeles Lakers in December 1981.

Westbrook spent his first 11 seasons with the Thunder, earning MVP honors for becoming the second player to average a triple-double in a season in 2016-17. He then embarked on a tour of the NBA that began when he was sent to the Rockets to team with Harden in July 2019. In December 2020, Westbrook joined the Washington Wizards, who traded him as part of a five-time swapaganza to the Lakers, who sent him to the Utah Jazz in February 2023 as part of a three-team deal.

Malone, a three-time NBA MVP, was traded twice before winning the award. Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft, he was traded to Buffalo in October 1976 before playing a game for the Blazers. After backing up McAdoo for two games and spending just six days with the Braves, Malone was sent to the Rockets.

In September 1982 as the reigning NBA MVP, Malone was part of an early sign-and-trade deal, going to the 76ers and winning his third MVP trophy in 1982-83 after signing an enormous (at the time) six-year, $13.2 million contract. In June 1986, the Sixers swapped Malone to the then-Washington Bullets.

With the Clippers, Harden reunites with Westbrook for a third time. After being waived by Utah, Westbrook signed with the Clips last February and re-signed with LA in July.

The Clippers franchise was also involved in the trade histories of McAdoo and Malone, as the team's roots trade back to the expansion Buffalo franchise in 1970.

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