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Life after The Beard: James Harden hooked many Thunder fans

How has life gone on without The Beard? It hasn't necessarily been easy because people really loved James Harden.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 20, 2013

Had it not been for his wife's fancy pants work event, Jarrod Bowley would still have his beard.

He's not sure how he'd feel about it now.

That's because the Coweta man started growing the beard last year because of his favorite team, the Thunder, and one of his favorite players, James Harden.

Now, of course, Harden wears Houston red. He and the Rockets are the Thunder's first-round playoff opponent, and Harden tribute beards are so last season.

“That would be kind of awkward,” Bowley said of still having a Hardenesque beard.

Much about this series is bound to be awkward for Thunder fans. Not even a year ago, Harden was still a big part of this team and a big favorite to its fans. There are still “Fear the Beard” shirts tucked in drawers and fake beards stored in closets.

How has life gone on without The Beard?

It hasn't necessarily been easy because people really loved this guy.

“Harden was probably my favorite player on the team when he was here,” Thunder fan Blake Shropshire said.

“He was a guy we could count to provide a spark and energy off the bench,” Thunder fan Jared Homer said.

“It just felt like he was born to be part of Oklahoma City and this organization,” Thunder fan Derek Cody said. “I thought he was the perfect fit.”

Then came the trade.

We went from hearing that contract negotiations were ongoing to learning that Harden had been shipped to Houston. The news came quickly and harshly that October evening.

Shropshire remembers hearing about the trade when he was in Norman watching Oklahoma play Notre Dame. But as big a fan of Harden as he was, he didn't feel sad to see his favorite player leave town. He didn't feel mad that the two sides didn't get a deal done.

“I was fairly excited,” Shropshire said of the trade. “I had grown tired of hearing him talk about sacrifice but not make any.”

Harden talked a good game about wanting to stay in Oklahoma City, but the longer the contract negotiations went on, the more hollow those words sounded.

Since the trade, we've learned more about the behind-the-scenes wheelings and dealings. The Thunder offered Harden a big contract, a deal that would've financially extended the franchise in ways that would've been dangerous to its long-term stability. But Harden wanted a max deal, something that the Thunder didn't have available to give him.

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by Jenni Carlson
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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