Saturday, December 20, 2014

How Hirsute Are These Hoopsters?

The other day one of my students asked me a rather personal question that led to a pretty funny outcome.

"Why does your face always look like that?" she inquired.
"How does it look?" I responded.
Then came the hammer. She paused for a few seconds before saying: "It looks ... like ... dirty."

I guess a six-day-old beard isn't the best look for me. Here's a sample of what I'm often working with:


I guess she had a valid point, huh?

Anyways, that little embarrassing story got me thinking about real men, ones who can actually grow beards. Men whose beards look like hair, not like dirt. So I logged onto my Internet machine and punched in nbabeards.com, because why wouldn't there be such a site? No dice. How about nflbeards.com? Same result. Maybe a Madison Bumgarner-themed site called mlbbeards.com? No, sir.

After 40 seconds of frustration -- a veritable eon in Internet years -- I finally found a Website called sportsbeards.com. Unfortunately, the only recent basketball beard featured on the site belongs to Brian Skinner, whom a blogger named roc called "mayor of pube city."

But Brian Skinner is nowhere close to the pinnacle of Bearded Mount Rushmore. With that being said, let's count down the best beards in basketball right now, with consideration to both the NBA and college ball:

10. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Via operationsports.com
As a stand-alone beard, Noah's wouldn't be anything special. But his general state of disheveled-ness earns him a place on this list. His hair is everywhere and he just wouldn't look right without a substantial beard.

9. Pat Connaughton, University of Notre Dame
Via espn.go.com
A two-sport star, Connaughton is a superior athlete who has the same problem I have. His beard probably took him a month to grow, and it just looks like he fell on his chin while walking home from Corby's at 2:30 a.m. Admittedly, my well-documented Notre Dame Beard Bias contributed to Connaughton's inclusion here.

8. Kevin Love
Via nba.com
When Love was at UCLA, I harbored an irrational hatred of him that was 98% connected to his stupid little chinstrap. When Love got to Minnesota and grew out his mountain-man beard, I began to appreciate his game a whole lot more. Now with Cleveland, Love has tamed his facial hair a bit, but it's still a good look for him.

7. Brian Skinner
Via espn.go.com
I've got to admit that "mayor of pube city" is a pretty funny line. Well done, roc. If that is your real name...

6. Jalen Billups, Northern Kentucky University
Via wcpo.com
The players on Utah State have the raddest heads of hair in college hoops, but my vote for best beard in the NCAA goes to Northern Kentucky's Jalen Billups, who actually procured thousands of signatures on a petition to keep the facial hair. I don't know if there's anyone more committed to his beard than Billups, and that counts for quite a bit.

5. Nikola Mirotić, Chicago Bulls
Via thebrowmamba.deviantart.com
Look at that thing of beauty. Along with Noah, Mirotić gives Chicago the best teammate beards in the league, edging out the Grizzlies' impressive Marc Gasol-Vince Carter combo. 

4. Quincy Acy
Via nydailynews.com
Acy's savage dunks and accompanying savage beard are two of the only bright spots in this pitiful Knicks season.

3. Pero Antić

Good lord, that's an intimidating man. He reminds me of the psycho Russian from The Boondock Saints. I know I left off a bunch of solid beards (John Salmons, my Irish relative Kyle O'Quinn, etc.), but there was absolutely no chance I could omit Antić and his well-groomed facial hair.

2. James Harden
Via espn.go.com
I'm actually surprised that Harden's Basketball-Reference page doesn't list "The Beard" as his nickname. What that page does have is these 2014-15 per-game averages: 26.7 points, 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.9 steals. Those are all career highs, as is Harden's 25.3 PER. If this was a list of the top 10 bearded players, Harden would run away with the title. However, just judging the quality of the beards, nobody can top the champ...

1. James Harden
Of course. When Chris Andersen wimped out and decided to shave, he became just another one of us normal guys. Well, at least the rest of us 6-10 lunatics who sport hundreds of tattoos. Anyways, R.I.P., Bird-Beard. Until Andersen grows it out again, the throne is Harden's. And the rest of us are just jealous losers looking longingly at The Beard.



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