James Harden, the most beloved bearded force of nature in the game, opened up to GQ for its May cover feature, which the men's magazine revealed today. Here's what we gleaned from Devin Gordon's 4,000-word profile and the accompanying (outrageous, incredible) photoshoot.
1. He seriously, genuinely loves candy.
Harden's partnership with Trolli, the candy-maker behind your favorite Sour Brite Crawlers (aka gummi worms), was not merely a money grab.
Teams and shoe contracts come and go–Harden is already on his second of each–but candy is forever.
"It's a match made in heaven," he says.
What unites Harden and Trolli is a kinship of temperament, also known as a "brand identity," which, Harden tells me, boils down to one word: "weird." So far their partnership has yielded sour Gummis shaped like Harden's line of Adidas sneakers; a set of MVB (Most Valuable Beard) trading cards, including one that depicts Harden surfing through space on the back of his bulldog, Zeus; and one of the most surreal series of ads ever filmed by a pro athlete.
Later, Gordon goes on to write, "[Harden] loved Trolli before he even knew what it meant to love," which makes us wonder if the real match made in heaven wasn't in fact Harden and his ex-girlfriend, Khloé Kardashian, who once bathed in candy on E's Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Alas, Khloé gave birth to her first child (with another NBA player, the allegedly trifling Tristan Thompson) the same day GQ unveiled Harden's cover.
2. He absolutely slays in pink glitter.
The GQ shoot had Harden rocking all kinds of outlandish designer duds, from head-to-toe technicolor yellow to a full floral ensemble by Gucci. He looks undeniably confident in all of it, like he's fully aware he's dripping in swag.
"Pink glitter shorts." Another grin. "You're judging me already. I can see it in your face." He loves this, loves these reactions, loves being weird. "That's one of those outfits where, you know, it'll go on Instagram and guys will be like, 'What the heck is he wearing?' Most guys wouldn't do that. Most guys don't want that attention."
3. He favors the 🔒 emoji.
An off-beat pick for an off-beat dude.
Or he might be "locked in"—that's Harden's slogan for the season; he celebrates nearly every Rockets win on Instagram with a padlock emoji.
4. He ❤️s Mom.
Growing up in notoriously rough-and-tumble Compton, Harden said, meant a lot of "gangs and distractions." The lone bright spot? His mother. We're melting.
When I ask Harden to picture his childhood—his home, his neighborhood—his mother is the only happy image that comes into his mind.
Harden takes evident pride that his career has enabled his mother, Monja Willis, to have an NBA life of her own. Willis is one of a bumper crop of delightful NBA moms ... They are funny, salty, ferociously protective of their sons, and living their best lives on Instagram. "My mom—she hangs out with, like, moms of other players that I don't even talk to," Harden says, amused.
5. He gets food in The Beard.
This was always assumed, but GQ confirmed it: The trademark facial hair is a flavor savor.
He talks about adult stuff now, like the perils of such a prodigious beard for his bachelor life. "I get food in this shit all the time," he says. "Like, all the time. If it's people that I don't know, I won't eat around 'em. When I'm, like, going on blind dates, I'll wait till I get around people I actually am comfortable around, because then they'll tell me I have stuff in my beard. It kinda comes with it. If you wanna look as good as I do."
6. He may be the last person on earth to go on blind dates in 2018.
How do you even logistically find a blind date in the age of dating apps and social media stalking, say nothing of celebrity?
I'm so thrown by the thought of James Harden going on a blind date.