Weekly Wednesday Standout #8: The Beard and the City: James Harden and Houston

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We briefly covered James Harden’s shock trade to the Houston Rockets last week from a social media standpoint. Yet the response that night paled in comparison to the impact he had on the court in his debut week for the Rockets. In his opening game last Wednesday, he scored 37 points and added 12 assists. He followed that up two nights later with a 45 point, 7 rebound performance on the road against the Hawks. The next night, his home debut, was one of the most electric moments in recent Rockets history. His debut has already sparked discussion that he and Jeremy Lin make up the best backcourt in the NBA.

What makes Harden such a unique player that fans latch onto? For analysts and coaches, it’s obvious – he is an extraordinary efficient scorer. For fans, it comes down to one word: the beard:

Basketball is often thought of as the sport with the most individual personality. Harden’s beard is arguably the most distinct look in all of pro sports. It has been the foundation of fan campaigns. Foot Locker created a commercial around it:

A German DJ created a song about it that is sure to go viral:

The beard made Linsanity a secondary story. British papers have written about it. A fan shaved Harden’s face into the back of his head. And in these times, you know you’ve made it when you have your own hashtag – #beardsanity (he does maintain an active Twitter account).

Harden’s popularity is a matter of timing. Houston Rockets fans had been waiting for a superstar to replace Yao Ming. James Harden was ready to take over a team. And now, he has an opportunity to take over an entire city.

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