Why James Harden Will Become Bigger Fan Favorite Than Linsanity

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: James Harden #12 of the United States celebrates winning the Men's Basketball gold medal game between the United States and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

With the waves the blockbuster James Harden trade made already starting to settle down, there are some real questions left to ask with Houston having picked up one of the most popular players in the NBA on Saturday evening.

Who, after the addition of international sensation Jeremy Lin during the offseason, is going to be the most popular player in Houston?

There are plenty of merits for each guy, and they both have a history of becoming the most popular player on their team.

Jeremy Lin made a name for himself in the most media-centric city in the world by dragging the New York Knicks from the brink of implosion last January, saving them from having to swim upstream for a playoff spot.

He put up game-winners, near triple-doubles and huge scoring nights, led the team to wins over the Lakers and Mavericks and played a fun, if inefficient game of basketball.

Lin was so popular that his jersey sales skyrocketed, a string of New York Posts had Lin-related pun headlines, "Linsanity" became a thing and Knicks fans had hope that wasn't incredibly misguided for the first time since Patrick Ewing.

On the other side of the country, however, a player was becoming a fan favorite for extremely different, yet similar reasons.

Basketball-wise, James Harden plays one of the most fan-friendly games of any player in the league. He's not LeBron James in that he can't jump over Mt. Fuji and dunk on Godzilla, but he plays extremely well with the ball in his hands and he's equally as good a passer.

Harden can draw contact in the lane and score as well as almost any player in the league (again, not LeBron), which is something that constantly brings fans off their feet, and he's capable of throwing down a nice breakaway dunk from time-to-time.

It's hard to say who wins the "underdog" category, as Jeremy Lin came from the D-League to basically rule the Knicks for more than a month, while Harden has been coming off the bench for three years and consistently blowing people's minds.

When they both step on the floor for Houston, logic says it would be Lin, but I'd go with Harden now that there are expectations for the two of them.

Basically Houston picked up two guys who are going to play some interesting basketball, both of whom have pressure to perform on a level they've never performed on before. For Harden that means as a starter and No. 1 man on the team, and for Lin that means as a consistent contributor to the team.

What becomes the deciding factor in popularity right off the bat, however, is the facial hair. For whatever reason, beards automatically make people twice as popular as they would have been without them.

For instance, take a look at Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo from the San Francisco Giants. Zach Galifianakis, Fredrick Douglas, ?uestlove, Rick Ross, Matisyahu, Abraham Lincoln, Jerry Garcia, Billy Mays and ZZ Top. All beloved, all bearded.

Jeremy Lin has an equalizer, however. The fact that Lin is a little dude of Taiwanese descent and is a Harvard graduate seems to enthrall people. Plus, if he keeps sleeping on his teammates' couches, he's going to end up grabbing the ever-growing couch-surfer demographic.

When it all comes down to it, however, the fan favorite is going to be whomever it is that lives up to his expectations better. With Lin coming off an injury and Harden coming into the season with a full head of steam, you've got to imagine that Harden's got the edge right now.

But hold the phone on that one for just a minute there. We're forgetting someone. What happens if Royce White comes out of the gate, plays a weird game off the bench, ends up being productive and wins the fans over?

He's got the whole "overcoming adversity" angle at his fingertips if he's able to overcome his anxiety, plus he's been known to grow a weird beard himself. I'm not ready to call this a three-man race, but it's not a two-man race until White is completely ruled out.

Of course if James Harden shaves his beard then all bets are off.