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Private: The NBA’s hairy situation

Mark Eaton was an awkward looking man

Is it me, or are more NBA players than ever channeling their inner Mark Eaton? As I remember it, only a handful of players back in the day sported full beards, but these days entire rosters are rocking out with full-length facial follicles.

I'm not referring to Shaquille O'Neal's "Buddha Edwards" Fu Manchu, or even Rip Hamilton's Billy Goat goatee. I'm talking about the real deal: the all-out, ears-to-chin, itchy cheek beard. We've seen this look off and on from Rasheed Wallace the past couple of years, but now every team in the league has at least a handful of players who look like they forgot to pack their razors on a 15-day road trip.

Pau Gasol took to this look early in the year, and by now his bushy beard is starting to resemble that of a classic Bill Walton:

    Nothing beats the original

But while Pau's been marching to the beat of a different drummer all year, with the postseason in full force it seems like entire teams have adopted a time-honored NHL show of team unity by growing out playoff beards. Take Cleveland, for example, where LeBron James may very well be the next Michael Jordan but is looking more and more like the next Walt Frazier:

How old is this kid again?     Clyde made this look good

When the Cavs and Wizards play again on Wednesday, pay attention: I spotted at least a half dozen Cavs players with full beards, including Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas:

Drew Gooden     Big Z has fragile feet but a rock-solid beard

It's like an epidemic that's swept across the entire league -- no matter what game you turn on, you're bound to see at least a couple of players who look like they're trying out for the World Beard and Moustache Championships. From Manu to Dirk to Lamar, everyone is letting it grow out.

Is this just me? Were there more famously follicled players of yesteryear than I'm remembering?

Fashion styles on the court come and go -- Michael Jordan almost single-handedly ushered in the bald look 20 years ago, and it wasn't too long ago that Allen Iverson and Latrell Sprewell were the only players in the league sporting cornrows. Is this just a passing fad, or will we look back at this phenomenon 10 years from now and call it the Pau Gasol Era?