PHOTOS: James Harden Without a Beard

James Harden has become known for two things: being one of the best scorers in the NBA and doing so with his signature beard. Contrary to popular folklore, Harden was not born with a beard, and there was a time, even during his basketball career, when he did not have one.

Fans have to look back to Harden’s early days at Arizona State to find photos like the one above of Harden without a beard. When Harden started growing a beard at Arizona State, it did not have the great length his beard has today. You can see Harden playing without a beard in high school in the highlights below as well as the growth of his beard during his college days at Arizona State.

How did the beard come about, and why is Harden religious about keeping it? It started as a college experiment in growing a short beard into the long beard we see today. Harden told The Starters’ Trey Kerby that he did not remember the last time he shaved, but thought it was during high school. Harden explained the only one that can touch his beard is his barber.

“No, I don’t [remember when he last shaved],” Harden told The Starters (via The Dream Shake). It’s been a long time. High school was the last time I saw my chin…In college, days go by — it kind of gets longer. And you like ‘Hey, I kind of like this look.’…I let my barber trim it. That is the only person I let trim. I’m too nervous to touch. If I clip or do something wrong, I’m going to be pissed at myself…[the texture] It’s naturally soft.”

Harden also wants fans to know his beard is a labor of love. Harden told GQ he gets food stuck in his beard “all the time”, and is so self-conscious about it he won’t eat around people he does not know.

“I get food in this s— all the time,” Harden told GQ. “Like, all the time. If it’s people that I don’t know, I won’t eat around ’em. When I’m, like, going on blind dates, I’ll wait till I get around people I actually am comfortable around, because then they’ll tell me I have stuff in my beard. It kinda comes with it. If you wanna look as good as I do.”

Harden even made light of his predicament by allowing former Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook to squirt mustard in his beard during a Foot Locker commercial.

If you are looking to grow a beard like Harden, there is a lot that goes into maintaining it. Harden’s barber Derek Nieto explained to GQ there is a regular routine needed to maintain a beard that includes using the right products. Nieto’s tips include putting bear cream on in the evenings. Additionally, a beard needs to be cared for to the same level as the hair on the top of your head.

“Your beard should be washed as much, if not more, than your head,” Scala told GQ. “Pay close attention to the ingredients in the products you choose to use on your beard. Steer clear of silicones and harsh chemical surfactants and reach for natural oils and ingredients. Harsh chemicals found in commercial shampoo can dry out your beard making it course, brittle, and very itchy.”

Here’s a look at Harden’s earlier days without his signature beard.

Source: Heavy Sports