James Harden And The Good-Luck Beard

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – There must be magic in that there beard. As in The Beard: James Harden.

The longer it grows the more magic it weaves.

The Beard’s latest abracadabra act: Luring Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets, the Western Conference’s newest contender.

Nine months ago there weren’t enough sympathy cards to go around. Sure, Harden got a max-contract from the Rockets, but it came at the emotional expense of the breakup of Oklahoma City’s Three Musketeers, a trio that formed a youthful juggernaut that had one NBA Finals under its belt and had dynasty written all over it, if not for that one little detail called the luxury tax.

So here was Harden, the third amigo to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, kicked overboard and eagerly scooped up along the Texas Gulf Coast by a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009 and owned one playoff series victory since 1997.

Harden turned his circumstantial bad luck into a personally driven All-Star campaign. He delivered the Rockets back to the playoffs. And during this monumental past week, his presence on the roster was the prime motivator that sealed the decision from this summer’s most-coveted free agent to sign with Houston.

All at once, Harden received a partner-in-crime, an All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, at the toughest position to fill in the NBA, while wrecking the plans of Houston’s Western Conference rivals the Lakers and Mavericks, while putting that beard-less Thunder on alert for the better part of the next decade.

Let’s take a look at The Beard’s evolution and the good tidings that have followed:

The Pre-Beard Years: Think Harden was born with that thing? No. In fact, in high school in Southern California, Harden’s face was as smooth as a silk pillow. Then Harden signed on to play at Arizona State. It was Game On.

The College Years: First came the remnants of a goatee and then a pencil-thin beard filled in along his jaw line and under his chin. That’s when Harden decided to let it run wild, and so did his game. As a sophomore in 2008-09, the 6-foot-5 guard led the Pac-10 in scoring at 20.8 ppg and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He also averaged 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 steals and was named the conference’s player of the year. He led the Sun Devils to consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time since 1981.

The NBA had taken notice, not so much of the beard, which was really still more of a starter’s kit than a full-fledged freak flag. With the third pick in the NBA draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Harden. On draft night, Harden, already styling with a bow tie, wore a thickening beard in the cheeks, but it was nothing more than your run-of-the-mill NBA beard. From that moment, it was Beard on.

The OKC Years: Slowly but surely, Harden’s face became a memory. The Beard took over like an ivy that climbs the brick face of a house only to eventually completely cover it in green, leafy foliage.  Harden trimmed his beard up around the cheek bones, but his neck soon became masked by a mashing of black, wiry whiskers that protruded like a blanket of coal from his chin, angling down and out, a description that did not fit his burgeoning game.

Harden blossomed from 9.9 ppg and 1.8 apg as a rookie to more than 12 and 3 in his second season to nearly 17 and 4 in his third season when he became the league’s top sixth man at just 22 years old. By then, fans were wearing fake beards to games and the beard took on a life of its own, appearing in advertising and marketing gimmicks all over OKC. Harden’s success paralleled the Thunder’s, growing from a first round loss to the Lakers in 2010 to the West finals in 2011 to the NBA Finals in 2012. The Durant-Westbrook-Harden Thunder were the favorite to get back there again in 2013 until late October 2012 when…

…The Beard got traded

The Houston Year(s): This could be a long (really long) and glorious ride. In his first season, Houston fans welcomed The Beard and all its glory to town, and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 25.9 ppg and 5.8 apg in his first season as an NBA starter. He was the toast of All-Star Weekend in his new hometown and he led the Rockets back to the playoffs with visions of greater things to come in the offseason and beyond. Now Harden has Howard and the legend of The Beard completes another chapter.

There’s been no official word whether Rockets general manager Daryl Morey actually rubbed The Beard with his palms for good luck prior to free agency. Maybe he didn’t have to. Maybe simply being in its presence is good enough.

16 Comments

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  2. Bj Fard says:

    Hey JHard…try and recruit RonRon…as either a beefed up PF when you play small ball or a sixth man who can sit down on the bench, watch who is hot and how he might be able to stop them, wait until they tire a little, then come in and shut them down. Think about it, besides Dwight the Rockets really don’t have a shut down defender. Parsons is good at keeping his man in front of him, but he isn’t the physical force that the World Peace is. Come on bro, get back on that recruitment campaign. Even Superman could use a muscular Wonderboy sidekick.

  3. im Kobe the best ballhog says:

    If only KD and Westbrook willing to take less money, its just not fair people keep cursing Harden, saying he should think of team first and take less money to stick with OKC. Then why didnt KD and Westbrook take less money to keep the team intact? dont blame Harden, if KD and Westbrook has taken less money to set an example, im pretty sure Harden would have followed.

  4. EA says:

    Houston is the talk of th town now and soon , a lot of stars will join in to enjoy the red nation pleasure. WE WILL SEE SOME RESULT SOON STARTING THIS YEAR. Beware of the beard man and ths superman!

  5. DD24 says:

    There is no denying Harden’s talent, but it’s difficult to support him after saying he was willing to take a pay cut to be a part of something special to demanding a max contract and killing what could have been a dynasty. If he would have said that he wanted that deal from day one I would be cool with that, but he didn’t and I don’t like nor respect liars.

  6. SAM REYES says:

    i spect houston and dallas to top. =3

  7. […] Daily MealRockets fined $ 150000 by NBA for comments about Howard during moratoriumThe RepublicNBA.com (blog) -Houston Chronicle -The Jewish Voiceall 231 news […]

  8. Ro says:

    “if not for that one little detail called the luxury tax.”
    Dont you mean, if not for the egotistical NBA players?
    He could have signed a close to max contract with the Thunder, but no, he had to be ‘the man’. Wouldnt you want to stay with OKC and have a chance at winning 3, 4, 5 rings over the next decade? Yeah he was the 6th man. Thabo wont be around forever, and he was ALWAYS on the floor to finish games as he can be a great closer. Seemed like a no-brainer to me to sign the extension with them.
    Oh well, at least Houston wont be awful anymore and that is good!!

    • ac says:

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. OKC traded him because they couldn’t afford to give “almost max” deals to Ibaka and Harden. They chose Ibaka. Now they are suffering the consequences.

  9. Mike says:

    “Slowly but surely, Harden’s face became a memory.” That is one of the best lines I have ever read about a basketball player. Bravo.

  10. Tony says:

    They have a strong foundation and Morey seems to have quite a knack at strengthening it. Putting a good team together statistically is one aspect. But, it’s gotta be the players who dedicate themselves to hard work and setting aside egos for the good of a championship cause. The issue now is chemistry, chemistry, chemistry!!

  11. Bubba says:

    I wish I could grow a beard like Harden. Harden is my favorite player in the NBA. He a true beast.

  12. Willy Spurd says:

    Can’t wait to see Dwight in a beard! Rockets were fun to watch last year, can’t wait this year is even better. Linsanity tossing Lobs!

  13. KImmy says:

    James Harden is the best. And I loved watching him with Westbrook in the All-Stars. I just wish they never had to trade him from OKC. They could have been champions by now…..Oh well. He’ still an OKC player to me and always will be.

  14. Stephone says:

    Playoffs Houston

  15. Stephone says:

    Funny