Tag Archives: NBA Finals

The Power of Facial Hair

A good beard can get you a long way in life. Just ask James Harden. Harden’s play this season (and his beard of course) have propelled the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals.

If you look closely, you can see a small bird living inside Harden’s beard.

While Harden has had his beard for several years now, many others grow theirs specifically for the playoffs, most famously in the NHL. That tradition dates back to the 1980’s when the New York Islanders had four games in five nights and didn’t have time to shave. Since then, come playoff time, players in nearly every sport will follow the tradition and hope the superstition proves useful.

But the effects of impressive facial hair have been well documented throughout sports history. Let’s take a look.

Even Davis can’t believe how nice his beard was.

Baron Davis: Just as Baron’s beard reached its maximum volume, miracles began happening for the 2007 Golden State Warriors. Finishing the season 16-5 to earn the 8th seed with a 42-40 record, the Warriors faced the NBA’s best team in the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki coming off of an MVP season. The rest, obviously, is history.

Davis and the Warriors dismantled Dallas  and nearly snuck by the Utah Jazz in round 2 in a series that featured arguably the best play of Davis’ career. Davis and his beard gained notoriety after that season, as Boom Dizzle himself details in this video.

Brian Wilson: Moving across the Bay, Wilson followed in the path of his fellow Giant Barry Bonds in achieving greatness through frowned upon measures. Pledging at the beginning of the season to not shave until his team won a World Series, the eccentric Wilson took that a step further by dying his beard black. He pushed aside the accusations by claiming the beard was “just really tan.”

Just slap some mascara on Wilson and Captain Jack Sparrow would have some competition.

Despite the tainted beard, the Giants also had some playoff miracles, particularly in their NLCS matchup against the Phillies. In Game 1, Cody Ross hit two home runs off Roy Halladay, who had yet to give up a hit in the playoffs, and the Giants went on to win the series 4-2 behind Wilson’s 3 saves and 1 win.

San Francisco moved on to face the Texas Rangers in the World Series and won the title with relative ease in 5 games. After that, Wilson’s beard became a legend, prompting obligatory “fear the beard” chants every ninth inning and his own t-shirt.

Johnny Damon:The 2004 playoffs was another big win for beards. Damon, sporting a massive beard rivaling many a vagrant, helped propel the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918.

Damon added the long hair to his beard to go for the cave man effect.

After falling behind 3 games to none in the ALCS matchups versus the Yankees, Boston rallied back to win the series, bolstered by Damon’s game-winning run in the 14th inning of Game 5 and his 2 home run, 6 RBI game 7. Having reached the World Series, Damon’s home run to lead of Game 4 propelled the Red Sox to victory, sweeping the Cardinals and winning its first title in 86 years.

Brett Keisel: With a beard that could earn him a role in The Hangover 3, Keisel may have the most profound facial hair on this list.

Keisel must have a very warm face.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ failure to make the playoffs in 2009, Keisel began growing what he dubbed “Da Beard,” hoping to improve his team’s fortunes. It clearly worked, as the Steelers made it all the way to the Super Bowl the next season, eventually losing to the Packers.

Keisel’s beard has its own website and raised over $40,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC when it was cut off at the “Shear The Beard” ceremony, making it the most philanthropic sporting beard of all time.

Rollie Fingers: The most famous moustache in sporting history has proved itself as lucky as its lower lip counterparts on this list. Fingers is a 7-time All-Star, 3-time World Series Champion, winner of the 1981 AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award, the 1974 World Series MVP, and only the second relief pitcher to make the Hall of Fame.

Just look at the curl on that thing!

The other end of the spectrum holds true as well. Players with pathetic fuzz have received some poor luck in the playoffs.

Adam Morrison: Sporting perhaps the worst moustache in the history of mankind, Morrison has felt the consequences of his poor life decision to grow it.

Cute

Gonzaga’s memorable late game collapse at the end of the 2006 Sweet Sixteen led to Morrison crying on national television and a virtually nonexistent NBA career for the NCAA’s leading scorer.

Joe Flacco: I have no idea how Flacco decided a handlebar moustache would be a good choice, but the experiment did not end well for the Ravens’ quarterback.

Flacco realized the error in his ways after his loss to the Patriots.

Thought by many to be frontrunners for the Superbowl, Baltimore missed a field goal at the end of their AFC Championship Game against the Patriots that would have sent the game to overtime. Flacco quickly shaved the stache off after the game, but its damage was done. After the season, Flacco further hurt his karma by calling himself the NFL’s best quarterback. “I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m top-five, I think I’m the best,” Flacco said. Clearly he hasn’t learned his lesson.

With the long history of outstanding facial hair being accompanied by outstanding success, it will be interesting to see if James Harden and the Thunder can continue the trend.

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The Star Behind the Curtains: Shane Battier

You just can’t quite put your finger on him. He’s old and washed up. No he’s averaging 17 points per game in the NBA Finals.

Yet he barely averaged six points per game in the playoffs before this round.

The former college player of the year, Shane Battier, has seen it all this year: the praise, the criticism, and the silence. Nothing seems new to him. Well except the fact that he’s in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, and ensuring his first trip is not a regrettable one.

Thru the first two games of the NBA Finals, Battier has been a star in a locker room full of them.

Somehow, Battier, one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, always finds a way to get a hand in the shooter’s face.

The defensive specialist has been lights out from three-point range, shooting 69.2 % from downtown, while quieting the previous groans that arose every time he shot the ball. Even more, he’s gotten in Kevin Durant’s head, even if it’s barely.

“I absolutely hate it,” Durant said on Battier’s hand-in-your-face defense.

The usually quiet Durant picked a less than fortunate time to show signs of weakness. Not even Kobe Bryant, in the Lakers-Rockets 2009 Western Conference Semifinal series, admitted to any sign of discomfort from Battier’s harassing defense. 

But that’s what Shane Battier does. It’s his game. He harasses you, on the court that it is.

“I enjoy the competition and enjoy trying to guard Kevin Durant and Westbrook. It’s sadistic. It’s completely sadistic,” Battier said. “These guys are the best in the world and trying to play the chess game and figure them out and figure out what works and what doesn’t…that’s the thing every guy misses when they walk away from this game.”

No that’s not what every player, or most players, will miss when they walk away from the game. The competition, the ability to match his wits against the best, and the challenge of guarding them are what drive Battier.

The Big Four? Now that’s just not fair…

The two-time member of NBA’s All-Defensive team doesn’t need the ball in hands, just a superstar in front of him to try and slow down.

In a Rockets-Spurs game during the 2007-08 season, Battier was assigned to guard Manu Ginobili, who was coming off the bench. A routine starter, Battier asked then Rockets coach Rick Adelman to scratch him from the starting lineup and be substituted in whenever Ginobili entered the game.

Later Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said, “No one in the NBA does that. No one says put me on the bench so I can guard their best scorer all the time.”

Other NBA players should take notes on Battier’s team first mindset because it’s no coincidence that Shane Battier and winning go hand in hand.

From his college days at Duke, he led the Blue Devils to the NCAA Championship game twice, winning it all in 2001.

In 2001, Battier swept all the Player of the Year awards along with leading Duke to win the NCAA Championship.

He followed that by helping the Memphis Grizzlies make the playoffs for the first time in team history in 2004, and twice more again in the following two seasons.

Later Battier was traded to Houston, where he played an integral part in the Rockets’ 22 game winning streak, second longest in NBA History, during the 2007-08 season.

The season after, Batter and Houston pushed the eventually NBA Champions, the Lakers, to seven games in the 2009 playoffs.

Now he’s with Miami, and the Heat have the upper hand on the Thunder in the NBA Finals, unlike last year against the Mavericks.

Battier is the perfect role player for any NBA team.

He’ll never make Sportcenter’s Top 10 plays with a flashy offensive game. Nor will he be called to the podium either for the post-game conference. Instead Battier will be left to do the dirty work behind the scenes, and not only will he do it right, he will do it willingly.

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