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James Harden: Why the Beard needs Oklahoma City as badly as OKC needs him

COMMENTARY — One more strategy for the Thunder in its bid to re-sign James Harden: Convince him he's better off visiting a party city than playing there. There's mounting evidence of that on the Internet.
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 21, 2012

/articleid/3702968/1/pictures/1806183">Photo - FANS / NBA BASKETBALL: James Harden, front right, laughs as Derek Fisher, left, speaks during a welcome home rally for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a field at Will Rogers World Airport after the team's loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, Friday, June 22, 2012. At right in the background is Serge Ibaka. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
FANS / NBA BASKETBALL: James Harden, front right, laughs as Derek Fisher, left, speaks during a welcome home rally for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a field at Will Rogers World Airport after the team's loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, Friday, June 22, 2012. At right in the background is Serge Ibaka. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

“The other stuff, you can't buy.”

And still, the rest of league holds out hope that the Thunder and Harden aren't able to agree on a deal before he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

He is one of the league's most coveted young players, and if that weren't enough of a ride, check out the run that Harden has been on the past four months. He won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. He helped the Thunder win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals. He landed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and won a gold medal a couple weeks ago in London.

Now, he's part of Foot Locker's new national ad campaign. He joins Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and several other NBA stars in the commercials, though none is as funny as the “Tear Away” spot that Harden does with Westbrook.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and search for “tear away beard” on YouTube.

Life is good for James Harden.

But you have to wonder if The Beard Express has a chance of running off the rail. Earlier this summer, his account on Instagram, a picture-based social media website, had a photo of a note with some news.

“JUST FOUND OUT I GOT TRADED TO THE HORNETS,” it read. “I'LL MISS OKC.”

Not long after, the picture was deleted.

Turns out it was a hoax.

Hard to believe the Thunder was real happy that one of its potential franchise players is joking around about that.

Then again, that gold-and-black, tiger-print cowboy hat couldn't have been a big hit either.

But I'm telling you, the Thunder could use this to its advantage. Harden clearly has some wild child in him, and there's nothing wrong with that, but here's where the Thunder can make OKC a huge positive. Sell Harden and his people on the fact that he shouldn't live in party city with a bunch of money. Convince them that he can visit places like L.A. and Miami in the offseason but that he needs to spend most of his time in a place like Oklahoma City.

Last I checked, Lake Hefner didn't have enough water to float a boat big enough for another All-White Yacht Party.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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