James Harden’s name has long been synonymous with three things: his beard, ice-cold three-point shooting, and choking in the playoffs (just kidding!). Early in the 2020-2021 season, however, The Beard’s name started trending online for another reason: his weight. So, is James Harden fat?
A search through Twitter will give you thousands of instances where the former NBA MVP was being fat shamed for showing up to training camp looking a little bit, shall we say, voluptuous.
The story doesn’t end there, though. When Harden got shipped off to the Brooklyn Nets, he showed up looking almost miraculously svelte. The speed with which he lost his extra pounds led to one of the wildest conspiracy theories in recent memory. Millions of people wondered, “Did James Harden wear a fat suit in order to get traded from the Houston Rockets?”
1. James Harden’s Weight Has Changed Over Time
James Harden looks almost unrecognizable in pictures from his days playing college ball. During his time as an Arizona State Sun Devil, the superstar was skinny and clean-shaven. Like many other NBA players, Harden bulked up during his transition to professional ball. He put on enough muscle to weigh 220 pounds.
His first documented struggle with his weight came during the 2016 offseason. That’s when he broke his ankle and couldn’t work out. That season, the Rockets got off to a slow 4-7 start and sacked head coach Kevin McHale.
McHale blamed his exit on James Harden showing up overweight. Apparently sitting around and nursing his ankle caused the star to pack on a few extra pounds.
Harden lost his injury weight and returned to top physical form until the 2020 offseason. By then, the star was becoming disgruntled with how things were going in Houston. The Beard began demanding a trade to a Finals contender. He wanted out of Houston so badly that he turned down $50 million to stay with the team.
That year, Harden showed up late to Rockets camp and had to lose several extra days of training time to mandatory COVID-19 protocols. When he finally appeared on the court, fans and reporters alike were aghast at what they saw.
The formerly fit MVP had gained about 40 extra pounds during the offseason, and the extra weight was affecting his game. His first few weeks of the 2020-2021 season with the Rockets were some of the worst of his career. His scoring suffered, and the extra donut around his waist slowed the speed and agility he’s known for.
2. Twitter Loves Fat James Harden
For a brief, golden moment in 2020, fat James Harden memes took over the internet. Jokesters compared Harden to Fat Albert and Mac from the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
The internet exploded again when they saw what Harden looked like in his Nets debut. Somehow, Harden had transformed back into the slender 220-pound scoring machine he used to be. Thus, the James Harden fat suit conspiracy theory was born.
3. The Fat Suit Theory
The main premise of the fat suit theory is that Harden shed an impossible amount of weight in the two days between leaving the Rockets and starting his tenure at the Nets. Pictures from a few days before the trade show The Beard looking pretty rotund. By this logic, Harden wore a fat suit to push the Rockets into trading him, then ditched it the second he got what he wanted.
Harden’s rapid physical transformation is remarkable. For most of us who struggle to lose even a couple of pounds, the idea that someone could lose 30 pounds over the course of a few days seems ludicrous.
Harden is also known as a crafty player who will do anything to get what he wants. His reputation as a slick operator added to the credibility of the fat suit theory. However, this theory, while somewhat plausible, definitely has a few holes too.
NBA players are under the constant supervision of team physicians who monitor their health and fitness. It seems like it would be tough for Harden to hide a fat suit from Rockets team doctors. Harden would have also had to figure out some way to hide his fat suit from his teammates while changing in the locker room.
4. How James Harden Got Fat
By the time he showed up to the Rockets training camp, James Harden had spent an entire offseason demanding to be traded and getting frustrated with the team’s front office. He vented his frustrations by partying, drinking, and eating a lot.
Confirmation of Harden’s excessive lifestyle during the 2020 offseason can be found by quickly scrolling through his Instagram posts from that summer. We all know how quickly eating rich food, drinking a lot, and skipping the gym can make you put on the pounds.
5. How He Might Have Gotten Skinny
Harden’s offseason lifestyle explains his rapid weight gain, but what about the rapid weight loss? It may seem impossible to drop weight so quickly, but crazier things have happened, especially in the world of sports.
Wrestlers and boxers often drop more than 10 pounds in the days before a match by employing extreme measures like saunas, fasting, and dehydration. In the NBA, players can lose incredible amounts of weight during the course of one game just by sweating it out.
With this in mind, it’s possible that Harden went through some kind of intense regimen to drop a bunch of weight before his Nets debut. Especially if he was carrying a lot of water weight, cutting salt from his diet and sweating a lot could have reduced his bloated look.
Was James Harden Fat?
Ultimately, we’ll never know whether James Harden was actually fat or if he pulled off the greatest prank in NBA history. If he was wearing a fat suit, hats off to a god-level bit of deception.
If you can’t get enough NBA gossip, check out our blog for the latest news and updates.
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