Let’s take a step back and stir the pot with James Harden
2018 NBA MVP and Expert Air Pot-stirrer James Harden returned to Manila for his and adidas’ Free to Harden tour. Unlike most visitors we get from the NBA, Harden didn’t just play exhibition games with local basketball players and then called it a tour. James Harden came here to talk about freedom.
The two-day Free to Harden tour began on June 25 with a visit to the University of the Philippines and then continued on June 26 with a fan activity at the adidas store in Two Parkade BGC. Through these events, The Beard, not to be confused with The Bard (that’s William Shakespeare), advanced the idea that just like him, basketball fans are free to play how they play. They're free to step back. They're Free To Harden––including your lola.
The tour culminated with the Free To Harden Freestyle Hub at the SMX Convention Center on June 26. During the press conference, your correspondent wanted to do an in-depth, hard-hitting, no holds barred beard exposé. The people need to know how one grows and maintains a majestic beard like that without scaring little kids or inviting tiny birds to nest in it. But because time is limited, your correspondent had to settle for listening to Mr. Harden talking about basketball, how he deals with haters and how important creative freedom is to him whether it’s inside or outside the court.
The Houston Rockets guard had plenty to say about how he doesn’t really let haters bother him. He is free to play however he wants. He is free to make the boldest fashion choices. He doesn’t put limits on himself.
When he was an out-of-shape asthmatic kid straight outta Compton, people told him he couldn’t play basketball. No, asthma kid! No b-ball for you! But he didn’t let those haters stop him. He stepped back, took his shot and stirred the pot. His inspirational messages throughout the press conference were a good consolation for a beard exposé that didn’t materialize. (Maybe next time.)
After the short discussion with the press, The Beard moved on to the Free To Harden Freestyle Hub event where his fans got to relive his iconic moments and celebrate his milestones. On stage, he answered Fast Talk questions that delighted the fans. Other games were also played like the “Beard On, Beard Off True or False” trivia game and a variant of “H.O.R.S.E.” which they called…B.E.A.R.D.
If you’re wondering, yes, at some point during the night, James Harden was asked one of the classic Pinoy Questions for Foreigners: have you visited any of our beaches yet? He answered “no” because there was a “cyclone,” referring to Tropical Depression Dodong. He may be Free to Harden, but he’s Free to Fear Dodong as well, you guys.
Throughout and even after the games and shenanigans with his fans, he kept reiterating his astonishment of the Philippines’ love for basketball. This man, the very first NBA player in history to score 30 points or more against every NBA team in a single season, is amazed at how we adore the game. He promised to spread the good word about our devotion to the game of balls and baskets.
His penchant for embracing freedom in his creative choices inside and outside the court is the very reason why he has a lot of fans and haters. But from what we all saw during the Free to Harden tour in Manila, we have more reasons now to like The Beard. We’re Free to Stan.
Photos adidas Philippines
Art Alexandra Lara