With the transition into this new era of Jazz basketball, the brunt of the pressure seems to be falling on one guy: Gordon Hayward.
But with all the positive feedback coming from the US Men’s National Team practices in Las Vegas right now, what better time to talk about one of the newest cornerstones of the franchise? As the Jazz’s longest tenured player, it feels almost ironic to classify him as “new” though. Gordon is now one of only two Jazzmen to play under Coach Sloan. Jeremy Evans, the other, has only three more career starts than I do—hardly on the same level as Hayward.
So we put our trust in G-Time. The skinny kid out of Butler who was booed on draft night.
Rather than picking apart his potential, I thought we could analyze his growth in another area.
His facial hair.
The baby-faced player we’ve been accustomed to over the past 3 years is growing up right before our eyes. As his game matures, so do his pores. Let’s take a walk through history with a photo recap of his scruffy development.
From the earlier picture, we have proof that his father has indeed taught him how to shave. And well before it was probably necessary. He was just a rosy-cheeked boy learning to tie a tie like any of us.
As innocent looking as they come. But probably torching kids of a much older age, even the ones who could already grow a full beard in middle school.
Here we have a flushed-face Rivals.com picture from around the time he started gaining exposure for how good he actually was. Though still very much a child.
His actual prep playing days at Brownsburg High School in Indiana. Still no peach fuzz to be found anywhere. (Also pictured is Julian Mavunga, Hayward’s close personal friend to this day. Frequently included on Hayward’s tweets as @Mavunga.)
Gordon in his college days at Butler. If you think he’s still skinny, compare his current build to this picture. This pic is from the game where people started to recognize the name Gordon Hayward; the same game that left him 4 inches away from one of the biggest National Championship upsets in history.
Draft night. June 24, 2010. A surprise pick for many at number nine overall. Not only were Jazz fans upset about picking another white guy, but one that hadn’t finished going through puberty yet. Cheeks look smooth as ever.
Not much later that same summer during Jazz Summer League in Orlando. We didn’t expect much hair growth in such a short amount of time anyway. His play was also slightly underwhelming.
During his rookie year. Slow growth on the face, but glimmers of hope on the court. After the rocky start with D-Will throwing the ball at his head, he started gaining his confidence back, even torching the playoff-bound Lakers in one of his best games of his first two seasons.
The next couple seasons brought on a barrage of hair changes, though not necessarily on the face.
The teen-boy-band hair accompanied a few prickly facial-hair patches.
From this most recent season, the scruff was more than noticeable. Not nearly as accidental. Gordon had apparently reached an age of consistent shaving, but lacked the routine discipline. Maybe his father needs to have another one-on-one session.
As the 2012-2013 season went on, so did the scruff. This was not merely forgetting to shave. It was a style choice.
You’ll notice in the last two pictures, the hair has slowly begun creeping higher up on his cheeks. Progress.
Now off the court. A few lifestyle shots from this off-season. If I’m not mistaken, you can see a hard edge on the top side of the beard. Gordo, are you doing some styling now? This was no accident.
And the last one. The beard is now undeniable. And dare I say respectable. At least during this it’s-cool-not-to-shave era.
It may have taken several years to start seeing any significant progress, but the transformation is underway. Interpret that sentence at your own discretion—beard or ball. At the ripe age of 23, it should be expected to let this kid grow and mature a bit, but the Jazz need Gordon as their leader now more than ever. With this season ahead of them, who knows, maybe we’ll even start to see a few gray hairs in there.
On the flip side, I think it’s important for Jazz fans to temper their expectations. His beard will get thicker this year, but he might not be joining James Harden on the NBA All-Beard team.
Not yet anyway.