The NBA fined Houston Rockets star James Harden $50,000 on Wednesday after ruling that he violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
The news came after video emerged of Harden partying maskless at an event. The video, published by Black Sports Online, allegedly originated at a Christmas party this week at a strip club in Houston.
The league’s press release stated that Harden was sanctioned for attending a private, indoor party on Monday.
Harden posted a statement on Instagram on Wednesday denying that he was at a strip club.
“One thing after another,” he wrote. “I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in position of success and now it’s a problem.
“Everyday it’s something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can’t. The real always end on top.”
Harden’s availability for the Rockets’ scheduled Wednesday night season-opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder was in question, but the game wound up being postponed when Houston couldn’t field the minimum eight players due to positive or inconclusive coronavirus tests as well as contact tracing.
The NBA’s COVID-19 protocol prohibits players from going to bars, lounges or nightclubs and from participating in social gatherings of more than 15 people.
An eight-time all-star and the league’s three-time defending scoring champion, Harden has been a constant fixture in the news cycle for weeks over his stated desire to be traded to a contender.
The 31-year-old guard reported a week late to training camp and played in only two of Houston’s four preseason games.
The Athletic reported Tuesday that Harden had been involved in several verbal confrontations with teammates in practice, even throwing a basketball at one player.
In 11 NBA seasons, Harden has averaged 25.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 833 career games. He spent his first three seasons with the Thunder, after becoming the No. 3 overall selection in the 2009 draft.
Harden averaged 34.3 points with 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists over 68 games last season.