This is the third and final installment of my groundbreaking oral history of James Hardens’ beard. Hundreds of hours of deep, heart-to-heart interviews were distilled into a concise narrative that sheds some much-needed light on the mysterious mass of tangled black facial hair. Enjoy.
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PART III: VOLUMINOUS AND LUSCIOUS
SAM PRESTI (Thunder General Manager): We drafted James for his scoring and his ball-handling. Not his beard. His beard wasn’t even that big when we drafted him. In the Thunder organization, we draft players for their on-court abilities, not their personal style choices.
SCOTT BROOKS (Former Thunder Coach): I don’t know if anybody in the Thunder organization at that time was aware of James’ beard potential. I think it took everybody by surprise when he started growing it out.
JAMES HARDEN: One day I just stopped shaving to see what would happen. These days there’s “No Shave November” and all that, but I wasn’t doing No Shave November. I was doing No Shave Until I Feel Like Shaving Again. And that turned out to be never.
KEVIN DURANT (Thunder teammate): I clowned on James when he quit shaving. But that was just me being insecure because I have weak facial hair genes. I even made fake Twitter accounts where I called him “Beard Bitch”. But we were cool. We respected each other.
NENAD KRSTIC (Thunder teammate): I remember one time on road game in Dallas, James eat a big barbecue with much sauce, and all sauce get in beard. James spend entire night using toothpick to removing sauce of beard. He was so anger, I thought in morning he would shave all off, but he didn’t. Then I knowing that James and beard are one in same, one not existing without other.
JAMES HARDEN: It took a while to get used to having a big beard. I had to be careful when eating or the food would collide with it, you know. It also dissuaded women from kissing me because it was so scratchy.
SAM PRESTI: In the end, we had to move on from James. It was a tough decision, but at the time it was the right move.
KEVIN MARTIN (Player Traded for James Harden): The main consideration in the trade was James’ upcoming contract, I think. From the outside it looked like [the Thunder] were trying to get all the beards off their team and replace them with unbearded guys like me, but I don’t think that was their plan. It was just a coincidence.
DARYL MOREY (Rockets General Manager): We saw the Thunder struggling to figure out how they would pay their budding star when they had other players who needed to get paid, so we swooped in. The timing was perfect. His beard was an afterthought, honestly. The beard did not factor into our decision at all.
JANINE MOSBY (Rockets Marketing Director): When you acquire a superstar like James, marketing becomes a lot easier. You just have to throw his picture onto merchandise and people will buy it. But with the beard, there was an extra layer of marketing potential that we could tap into. I still don’t think we’ve fully taken advantage of the opportunities his beard presents. We’re currently in talks with local biomedical companies to develop a technology that will allow fans to get James’ literal beard hair transplanted onto their own faces.
JAMES HARDEN: It’s cool that the fans wear fake beards as a tribute to my beard. I love the fans.
AUSTIN RIVERS (Rockets Teammate): Once I called James “fat black santa” because that’s what he looks like. He got angry at me and now we don’t talk. It was just a joke. I only said the mean thing because him and Chris were making fun of my dad. It’s not my fault he has Santa moobs.
MONJA WILLIS: Sometimes I wish James would shave it off. I don’t even know what my son’s face looks like anymore.
JAMES HARDEN SR.: James and I aren’t close, but I just want to tell him that I’m sorry I wasn’t there for him when he was young. And that the whole beard thing is kind of played out now. But he doesn’t want to listen to his pops.
JAMES HARDEN: I get people telling me to shave it, but it’s my identity now, for better or worse. I don’t listen to the haters. In the NBA, if you listen to the haters, you start losing your mind. Kevin [Durant] found that out.
KEVIN DURANT: Now I mostly use my burner Twitter accounts to protect my own reputation. James’ gross beard isn’t my problem anymore, except when we play the Rockets and I have to be near it. I think there are insects living in it. No lie. It’s nasty.
JAMES HARDEN: I grew the beard because I was self-conscious about my crooked teeth, okay? Happy now? You solved the mystery! Wasn’t that the point of this whole damn interview? To pick apart my psyche until my hidden motivations were laid bare for the whole world to see and to mock? Well, there it is. I’m embarrassed by my teeth and thought the beard would distract people. This interview is officially over. Fuck you.