James Harden’s beard is starring in an ad campaign for Trolli candy—without James Harden. So it stands to reason that if not for his beard, The Beard wouldn’t be making $18 million from endorsement deals in 2018, according to Forbes. That’s fourth amongst his NBA peers, but only The Brow (Anthony Davis) has a trait like The Beard distinguishing him from his peers or other celebrities in general. So what is the net worth of James Harden’s beard, and for what amount could it be insured?

The Beard Makes James Harden More Attractive

In the past, exotic facial hairstyles were indicative of social status and a man’s ability to provide. Maintaining some of the mustaches of the past required investments of time and money. But these days men are spending less on grooming products, not because of increased competition in the marketplace from companies providing automatic delivery services like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, but because men are grooming their facial hair less often.

Facial hairstyles are in style, especially amongst hipsters. Unshaven Millennials are even causing a crisis in the razor industry. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology found that “men are less attractive when clean-shaven than when they are stubbled or bearded,” but how much less attractive?

The study gives us a means to quantify the value of James Harden’s beard relative to other facial hairstyles, at least when considering a market of females of European descent who find men sexually attractive. Men were also considered as possible respondents for the study, but the 8,520 female participants were chosen based on Kinsey scale scores. Basically, the participants had to be at least as interested in men as they were in women.

The study investigates beardedness and its effect on women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness relative to three other facial hair lengths: clean-shaven, light stubble (five days of beard growth), and heavy stubble (10 days of beard growth). Beards consisted of at least 28 days of facial hair growth, and results showed “a significant interaction between beardedness and...attractiveness ratings.”

Facial Hair Effect on Attractiveness Graph

A full beard like Harden’s was preferred to a clean-shaven face by almost 12 percent, and when it came to finding that soulmate for a long-term relationship, women preferred bearded men over clean-shaven men by almost 10 percent.

Sports fandom, as you know, is a long-term relationship, so James Harden’s beard bodes well for the Houston Rockets as well as the companies he endorses. Women, at least, are more likely to consider and potentially establish a long-term relationship with a James Harden brand because of his beard, and that increases Harden’s earning potential. According to research conducted prior to the 2016 study, “Men with beards report higher feelings of masculinity, have higher testosterone and endorse more masculine gender roles than clean-shaven men,” so Harden’s beard might even have an effect on his play given the increased confidence, testosterone, and aggressiveness. But even if the beard was The Beard’s key to becoming MVP, quantifying that potential effect is impossible.

Regardless, The Beard makes more money in endorsements because of the beard. There’s just no way he’s the clean-shaven face of Trolli candy. How much more Harden makes because of his beard is difficult to determine because we can’t apply a similar percentage at which men prefer men with beards. If social media is any indication, men also prefer bearded men over clean-shaven men. We know how much men loved Chris Evans’ bearded Captain America in Avengers: Infinity War, and we know facial hair to be one way men advertise their admiration for other men.

Advertising our Admiration of People through Hair

You probably grew up imitating the swing of your favorite baseball player or the signature move of your favorite basketball player. You might even employ “The Harden Scoop” or initiate contact on dribble drives like The Beard. I adopted a combination of Kirby Puckett’s leg kick and Chuck Knoblauch’s batting stance. But I also bought a Puckett jersey to advertise my admiration of him off the field.

We can’t control who we are, but we can control, to some extent, our appearance and attire, which is how most of us advertise our admiration for our idols. Clothes are the most common and easy means of advertising our admiration of people. Sometimes you actually feel like your favorite player when you wear his or her jersey or branded sportswear on the field or court. But when the game is over and you shed your sweaty James Harden jersey, the increased attractiveness that might have resulted from wearing that jersey dissipates. Unless your game relative to your peers is as good as Harden’s relative to his, which would mean your Mr. Basketball in your state and lead the league in free throws, only a beard like The Beard’s can augment your attractiveness when the clothes come off.

You likely tried to reproduce the hairstyles of your favorite celebrities growing up, learning that your skull is too oddly shaped for the Michael Jordan look, or discovering cowlicks that make your hair stand up in all the wrong places. Even hair is something we can’t completely control, but hair extensions and installations, hair dyes, gels and sprays help.

We men can’t control how or where our facial hair grows either. I have one sideburn that comes in beautifully and another that looks more ridiculous the longer it gets. I also have a small, bald spot on my neck. Despite all that, I’ve mostly sported the same facial hair since I was first inspired to do so.

Just before my senior year of high school, my father, sister, and I drove from Eastern Montana to Branson, Missouri. My dad played the same CD for an entire day of driving, and we had another nine hours to go the next day. Knowing we’d spend around 36 hours in a car, I thought there was no way I’d enjoy this trip. But I was pleasantly surprised by Branson. It’s like a Vegas for senior citizens without gambling. There were plenty of shows to see, though, ranging from comedy to magic to music—lots of music.

One night I saw Blues Brothers impersonators give one of the most inspired performances I’d seen from anyone besides MC Hammer (even my dad, who disliked his music, was impressed with his performance because of his intense, nonstop dancing). I was a huge fan of the Blues Brothers movie and music, so I appreciated their effort to emulate two of my idols, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. At 17, I had both the movie soundtrack and their double-platinum, live record “Briefcase Full of Blues,” one of the best live performances ever recorded. Yes, two comedic actors backed by some of the best blues musicians in the country cut one of the best selling blues records of all time that climbed to the top of the Billboard 200 in February of 1979.

This was 2008, and after that performance I started growing my soul patch and sideburns. Since then I’ve retained the look except for a few job interviews and first dates and No-shave November. Women I’ve dated have asked me to shave the soul patch, and I’ve refused. Like James Harden’s beard, my soul patch is part of my identity. It’s representative of my soul. But I never considered my stubborn refusal to shave it this past decade as an indication of my social confidence until now.

The soul patch might be one of the least common facial hairstyles rocked these days, so you’ve got to have confidence to rock it. Not the confidence Michael Jordan had to sport a Hitler-stache in a Hanes commercial, but confidence nonetheless. Handlebar mustaches, which seem to be making a comeback, require both confidence and care-taking few facial hairstyles demand. When properly maintained and presented, the handlebar mustache screams social dominance...or at least advertises an ability to pay for mustache wax.

Speaking of handlebar mustaches, this one belonging to Aussie cricket fast bowler Merv Hughes was insured for $370,000, according to Time Magazine. That got me wondering if James Harden’s beard is insured and for how much.

James Harden's Beard’s Insurance Policy

Insuring facial hair seemed frivolous to me at first, but then I thought about Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire on the set of a Pepsi commercial. What if he lost a gig because of his burnt hair? Worse yet, what if he was unable to ever grow that hair back? James Harden might not be doing many commercials featuring pyrotechnics, but what if he required facial reconstructive surgery for a broken jaw and couldn’t grow his beard back? Could he end up losing endorsement deals like the one with Trolli candy?

We do know Harden would be 12 percent less attractive to women if he couldn’t grow any facial hair. Whether that affects his marketability and resulting endorsement earnings is debatable given his MVP-caliber play on the court. But a man nicknamed The Beard sporting a beard that stars in its own candy commercial stands to lose something if Harden loses the ability to grow that famous facial hair.

He’d at least lose the chance to make $10 million, which is apparently what it’d cost to convince Harden to shave. But given his endorsement earnings, what would an insurance policy for James Harden's beard cover and for how much could Harden’s beard be insured?

State Farm doesn’t cover facial hair, and multiple requests for comment from Harden’s agent didn’t receive responses. But we do know Harden sought out Trolli because he likes the candy and the brand being unique like him and his beard. While there's no report of what Harden is making with Trolli, his endorsement earnings were estimated at $17 million prior to the deal and $18 million after the deal. And unlike Harden's $200-million, 13-year deal with Adidas, the Trolli deal might not have materialized without the beard.

So if we ignore Harden's endorsement deals with Adidas, Beats, Electronic Arts, Foot Locker, State Farm and even BodyArmor, James Harden's beard is likely worth more than a million dollars. That estimate is comparable to Head and Shoulders insuring Troy Polamalu's hair for $1 million back in 2010 and all of these also insured by Lloyd’s of London, including Betty Grable’s million-dollar legs, Dolly Parton’s breasts, and Merv Hughes’s mustache. If he hasn’t already, Harden should be insuring his beard upon reading this.

Published in Money
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My First Love, Basketball, Has Returned

I’ve only just realized that I’ve never been a fan of any National Basketball Association (NBA) team, but simply a fan of fun basketball. The Minnesota Timberwolves helped me realize this by playing the least fun basketball I’ve ever seen on Friday night, while the Milwaukee Bucks repeatedly made me smile and laugh. My first love, basketball, has returned.

I gave up professional basketball for a long time after Michael Jordan retired a second time in 1999, but I never stopped watching Duke University men’s basketball. I’ve been a fan of Duke University men’s basketball for as long as I can remember. And I wasn’t a bandwagon fan like I was with the Minnesota Twins, with whom I took an interest because of a chubby, gleeful center fielder who carried his team to a World Series Championship in 1991.

Even though the Duke Blue Devils won it all in 1991 and got there on the back of Christian Leattner’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” I attribute by Duke fandom to my aunt’s indoctrination of me. She was a campus dispatcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and hated it, so she sent me a postcard featuring an overhead look of the Duke University campus surrounded by the Duke Forest. I think I checked their academic standards and immediately wanted to attend after high school, but when I first witnessed the energy at Cameron Indoor on television, I was hooked.

I was a nerd who was always a better coach than player, so I appreciated the idea of smart kids beating the talented kids with schemes and heart. I was bringing up the rear in the top 10 percent of my high school class of 88 graduates, so I’m relatively smart given where I grew up. My best friends were the two smartest kids in the state. But when I watched the 1991-92 Blue Devils, it felt like I was meant to go there. I didn’t have a very good concept of my family’s fiscal situation, however.

So while I relentlessly rooted for the Chicago Bulls of the ’90s, it was because they were so fun to watch. They played my kind of basketball—above the rim and in the paint on offense, and physical on defense. That’s why I came back to the NBA in 2009, when Derrick Rose arrived on the scene as Rookie of the Year, then All-Star, then youngest MVP ever. But I didn’t come back because of Rose; I came back because the Bulls were holding teams to under 90 points with physical defense.

Besides Michael Jordan’s final game at Target Center, it was Tom Thibodeau who got me watching the NBA for the first time in six years. It was Tom Thibodeau who brought Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves and got me to spend money on a 10-game, season ticket package. And it’s Tom Thibodeau who now has me watching anyone but the Timberwolves.

I had already put down a $250 deposit to retain my season ticket package with the Timberwolves, but it wasn’t difficult to find 10 games I wanted to watch. In the NBA, there are enough athletic freaks to go around that aren’t playing for the Timberwolves and would be worth seeing. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one. Antetokounmpo alone, scoring just 15 points, made the $80 I paid to sit a little lower than I sat when Jordan played his last game in Target Center worth every penny. That and seeing Sterling Brown get into the game and score some points. His jersey was the first NBA jersey I ever bought, not for his play on the court, but because of the way he handled himself when questioned and then tased by Milwaukee police for parking in handicapped spaces. Despite a vast Milwaukee crowd, I was the only one in the building proudly sporting Brown’s jersey.

LeBron James is obviously another one of those athletic freaks worth seeing regardless of your team’s ability, and the Los Angeles Lakers visit Target Center twice this season. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are another two. Anthony Davis another. Joel Embiid is another. James Harden another. Kawhi Leonard. Kyrie Irving and his coach Brad Stevens make the list. Speaking of coaches worth paying to see scheme, Gregg Popovich is one. And with all the hoopla over Jimmy Butler’s trade request, the Timberwolves’ home opener against the lowly, LeBron-less Cavaliers was must-see. That’s 10 games worth watching regardless of whether Jimmy Butler or anyone else plays for the Timberwolves.

Now I’m even planning a basketball/ski trip to Utah during the first round of the NBA Playoffs. I don’t expect the Timberwolves to be playing Utah, and couldn’t care less who does. I like Utah’s game. They play pretty good defense. I also like the Lakers’ game. They score all the points they can in the paint and as fast as they can to make up for their collective inability to shoot the three. It’s exactly what the Timberwolves should be doing, but Tom Thibodeau’s in the way. I won’t let it stop me from enjoying my newfound love of fun basketball, and I don't even like the evolution of the game via the exploitation of the three-point line.

Published in Sports

When I first looked at the Minnesota Timberwolves schedule when it was released, I figured there was no way I’d want to see the Timberwolves’ home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James leaving for Los Angeles. Even with a free ticket, I figured I’d skip the home opener and take whatever I could get for the ticket, if anything at all. Now the home opener might be the must-see game of the year, and perhaps the last game worth seeing.

“The Dumpster Fire”

The televised circus that has been the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise history reached soap operatic status when the show’s star, Jimmy Butler, requested a trade on Sept. 18, dictating the teams for which he’d prefer to play and a date by which he’d like the deal done in a meeting with Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau. Butler’s dumping of his longtime partner in basketball crimes (and crimes against basketball) might have come as a shock to Thibodeau, but not to anyone watching at home. Butler was giving Thibodeau all the signals; he just was blind to them.

Butler is a free agent when he waives his player option after this season and will likely sign the final max deal of his NBA career (he’s 29). But Butler stands to make the most money with whichever team is paying him at the end of this season, so he obviously doesn’t think the Timberwolves are a championship-caliber team now or maybe ever. Given Golden State’s addition of DeMarcus Cousins, Houston’s addition of Carmelo Anthony, and the Lakers’ addition of LeBron, he’s probably right. Things don’t look promising for any other Western Conference team either, but at least the Timberwolves with Butler are ahead of those other teams.

Before Butler went down with a torn meniscus last season, the Wolves had the eighth best net rating in basketball (2.6). After Butler’s injury the Wolves were 19th in net rating (-1.0), so to say Butler’s valuable to the Wolves would be an understatement. He’s invaluable, which is why Thibodeau is having such a hard time finding what he perceives to be a fair trade. Butler has allowed Thibodeau to not only minimize the defensive deficiencies of the young Towns and Wiggins, but hide his own offensive incompetencies. The Wolves took more contested shots than any team in the NBA last season and attempted the second fewest wide open shots.

Thibodeau isn’t putting his players in positions to succeed on offense; he’s relying on players to create their own scoring opportunities and always has. His dependence on Derrick Rose, trading of Ricky Rubio, a premiere facilitator on a team with three, top-flight scoring options, and his head-scratching acquisition of Jeff Teague, a score-first guard on a team with those same three scoring options ahead of him, are indicative of Thibodeau’s disinterest in offensive strategizing while the rest of the league enjoys an offensive evolution. It would be like seeing the earliest humans figure out upright walking for the first time and not only refusing to follow suit, but continue resisting after seeing the obvious advantages of having hands free to hold things like tools.

If championships aren’t part of the benefits package teams can offer Butler in contract negotiations, why wouldn’t he play where he wants to play for as much money as he can make? One thing Butler’s made pretty clear is that Minnesota isn’t where he wants to play with what’s left of his prime. I sensed this when I saw how much he was enjoying California during the offseason. Minnesota weather during basketball season is enough to make most any employee consider relocation, whether they’re playing a game for a living or waiting tables. Unfortunately for Timberwolves fans, the weather this winter won’t be as cold as Butler’s relationships with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

The feud between Butler and Towns has long been alleged and finally confirmed. Butler’s made it pretty clear that Towns and Wiggins are not the players with whom he wants to play for the rest of his prime years. calling Towns and Wiggins soft after a climactic clubbing of the Timberwolves’ first team while scrimmaging with the third team. And I don’t think Butler’s wrong.

The Haves and Have-nots of Basketball

In basketball just as in life, there are haves and have-nots. Those born into money don’t know what it’s like without it, and those without don’t forget what it took to make it without money. The same goes for athletic talent. Those with exceptional talent never know what it’s like to live without it, and those without talent never forget what it took to live without it. Towns and Wiggins are haves; Butler is a have not.  

There aren’t many NBA players of Butler’s caliber who had to work harder and longer than Butler to get where they are today. Not even Michael Jordan, who was famously cut from his high school team, had a more difficult path to NBA superstardom. Butler didn’t have LeBron’s build or talent to enter the league out of high school; he didn’t even have the game for NCAA Division I basketball. After a year at Tyler Junior College he transferred to Marquette, where he spent another three years honing his skills. Then, after the Bulls drafted him with the final selection of the first round in the 2011 NBA Draft, he didn’t play in an NBA game until Jan. 1, 2012, with his first start coming 80 games later. He was already 25 years old when he was first named an All-Star. As of this writing, Towns is 22, and Wiggins is 23.

Obviously things came a lot easier for Towns and Wiggins relative to Butler, and Butler’s probably frustrated that a couple of gifted kids who haven’t put in the work he has are already earning max money. But he’s definitely frustrated that they aren’t meeting his demands when it comes to effort and intensity. He might be demanding more of his teammates than anyone else in the league, but so did Michael Jordan. Butler just doesn’t have the rings to justify his expectations for his teammates, and frankly, with this generation, I don’t know that rings would be convincing either.

Who’s to Blame?

Towns and Wiggins might think Butler’s demands are unrealistic—even unhealthy—but making youngsters uncomfortable and challenging them physically and mentally in practice prepares them for in-game adversity. You learn a lot about yourself when faced with adversity, but you can only learn to overcome it if you embrace it. Towns and Wiggins don’t seem to be the adversity-embracing types.

"Every time I get switched out onto you, you pass it,” he said of Towns in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. When faced with adversity in the form of Jimmy Butler, Towns and Wiggins are passers; they avoid the adversity. It’s unfortunate for fans of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball that Towns and Wiggins aren’t willing to be led by Butler because what they need in order to get what they want are Butler’s lessons in leadership they’ve dismissed. They aren’t going to get what they need from anyone else, and what they want—to lead themselves—is more unrealistic than Butler’s expectations of them.

Regardless, Butler, Towns, and Wiggins are still, as of this writing, on the same team. But when the Cavaliers visit Target Center for the home opener, I urge Timberwolves fans in attendance to support their team. Booing Jimmy Butler during pregame introductions is not going to make him change his mind about playing in Minnesota, and even if nothing will, he’s not responsible for turning the Timberwolves franchise into the butt of a basketball joke. If you’re going to boo someone on Friday, boo Tom Thibodeau, because the guy who hired him, owner Glen Taylor, won’t be announced.

Published in Sports