The Beard is back.
Former ASU basketball star and current Houston Rockets star James Harden made his way back to Tempe Wednesday night as Arizona State University retired the All-American’s and 2008-09 Pac-12 Player of the Year’s number.
Sporting a maroon suit and his classic Mohawk and beard, Harden took the court with his mother, family members, former teammates and coaches to see #13 added to the Wells Fargo rafters.
Harden’s time in Tempe was short, but incredibly productive both individually and collectively for the Devils. In two years, the Beard (The Stubble might be more accurate at that time) won 46 games for the Devils while averaging 19 points per game. After a spectacular 25-win season, Harden was selected 3rd overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2009 NBA Draft.
“That was one of the reasons why I chose ASU,” Harden said. “To make sure I leave a legacy here. To make sure I leave something special, and I did that.”
Special might be an understatement.
Harden helped pave the Herb Sendek era to new heights. In the duo’s first year, they won 21 games. The previous year, the Devils won eight. The quick turnaround reflects the instant impact Harden has made not only at the collegiate level, but at the professional level as well.
“If you would have said he’d be this good this fast, and I’m president of his fan club, I would have said ‘I don’t know about all that’. What he’s doing is remarkable,” Sendek said.
Harden has been that good that fast, though. Sendek says his game isn’t the only thing that has remained consistent since Harden joined the professional ranks.
“When he was here, he was a regular student,” Sendek said. “He was always nice to everybody, he was a gentleman. He represents us the right way.”
Chants of “M-V-P” rang out throughout Wells Fargo Arena as Harden addressed the crowd. After the ceremony, the Sun Devil revealed what fuels his pursuit of the prestigious award.
“The NBA MVP coming from ASU…that’s who I’m doing it for.”