OKLAHOMA CITY – The beard is back. James Harden is back in Oklahoma City but this time as a visitor.
The OKC Thunder host Harden’s new team the Houston Rockets Wednesday at the Chesapeake Arena.
Harden, of course, did a lot for the Thunder franchise.
Draining clutch threes won Harden a legion of loyal fans.
His facial attire sparked viral videos, got office workers to sport fake beards and encouraged one business owner to dress up his shop.
“We love James Harden,” business owner Ronnie Ketch said. “We built a 15-by-15 beard on the building.”
The beard on Ronnie’s business, Ketch Design, is long gone, as is Harden himself now playing in Houston.
Still, many fans like Ronnie harbor no ill will.
“I hope Harden does his best, but I hope we beat him by 30,” Ketch said.
Whether to cheer or boo Harden’s return sparked a lot of talk on sports radio.
“I think we should definitely applaud him,” one fan said.
“I’m gonna buy you a ‘Don’t cheer the beard shirt,’” another fan said.
“I just think the fans will applaud him,” Sports Animal host Al Ecshbach said. “This isn’t Philadelphia. If this was Philly, they’d boo him and they’d go nuts. He was one reason we got to the championship last year. Fans shouldn’t forget that.”
“I think he was probably three when I had my first beard,” bearded Thunder fan Koby Click said.
Click, who grew facial hair long before Harden hit his first basket for the Thunder, agrees the fans should give “The Beard” a warm welcome.
“We’re good fans,” Click said. “We don’t boo ya just cause you got traded. We’ve got no hard feelings.”