Ballers and Tiaras: In defense of the playoff beard


George Bridges/MCT

While James Harden and the Rockets are down 3-1 to the Thunder, Harden’s playoff beard is in full force.

Rohan Nadkarni, Columnist

LeBron James completed an epic journey last season.

As Kanye West eloquently stated, the Olympian and soon-to-be-four-time MVP went from being the most hated player in the game to his “champion god flow” by securing his first NBA Finals win with the Miami Heat. But something was missing from King James’ conquest — a companion beard.

For whatever reason, NBA players skip out on playoff beards, while their NHL counterparts sport caveman-like facial hair throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. James rocked a goatee during his championship run, but nothing dramatic.

In this year’s playoffs, we’ve seen an assortment of facial hair that barely tickles the radar.

San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan currently carries an Abe Lincoln-esque beard, complete with a moustache. But there’s nothing to indicate Duncan will let the whole thing grow out as the Spurs advance. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant wears the same goatee he’s had for years, while the Heat’s Shane Battier revealed a Fu Manchu at practice on Wednesday that’s expected to be gone pretty soon.

So what’s the deal with these guys? What’s wrong with a little love for facial hair?

I think we can all agree facial hair has its place in long journeys. I personally want my NBA players looking like a fresh-out-of-the-jungle Robin Williams in Jumanji when they hold up the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.

In fact, think of your favorite movies with some kind of grueling, long, high-stakes process. Does the main character have a beard? Probably. Now imagine that character without a beard? It’s blasphemous.

“The Dude” from The Big Lebowski” would probably just be called “Some Guy” without a beard. We wouldn’t care about Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” if he didn’t look like a recently discovered Nicholas Brody from “Homeland.” And Albus Dumbledore could never be taken seriously as a wizard without those beautiful white locks.

Beards aren’t just window dressing — they’re also a great way to build team chemistry. It’s the spirit of doing something together with your teammates that makes it special, and hopefully one team catches on to the idea soon.

To wrap up this week, Ballers and Tiaras would be foolish not to recognize Jason Collins, the journeyman center who became the first openly gay player while still playing American professional sports.

My memories of Collins stem mainly from his days fouling centers Shaquille O’Neal or Alonzo Mourning while they played for the Heat. He was never a force on the court, but now he has a chance to do something more important than winning a trophy or keeping Shaq out of the paint.

We have a lot of fun discussing and dissing players’ fashion. I can call out players for their bold choices and tell them why their tight pink pants are ugly. But for Collins to come out and hopefully encourage more young, gay athletes to embrace their sexuality? It doesn’t get more fashionable than that.