Insane Professional Basketball Pre-Game Rituals You Won’t Believe
Superstitions are as much a part of sports as are the wild crowds that fill its stadiums. Die-hard fans cling to their lucky towels. They eat specific things when their favorite teams are on a winning streak. They sit in the same place if the players are rallying. There is nothing worse for a fan than angering the sports gods, thus ruining any chance his or her team has of coming out on top.
Superstitions are not reserved for only fans, however. Players also tend to believe in a higher power that rules over the outcome of the game. Go against these athletic deities, and you might as well not show up to play that day. On the other hand, if you are dutiful in the routines that honor them, victory is all but assured.
These rituals, though absurd on the surface, can really affect the mindset of the people performing them. Many times, if a player believes that performing a superstitious ritual improves performance, then it probably does. After all, some of the greatest athletes of all time carried the most meticulous superstitions imaginable, and it seems to have worked out just fine for them.
Basketball is an example of a sport that features an abundance of pre-game rituals. We are referring to the kind of choreographed activities that are so off-the-wall, absurd, and entertaining that people show up to the arena early in order to get a glimpse of them. Here are a few examples of some of the basketball players who carry the more notable pre-game rituals.
MICHAEL JORDAN & LEBRON JAMES
The King and Air Jordan share much more in common than championship rings, MVP awards, and a spot on the Mount Rushmore of professional basketball. It turns out, they have very similar pre-game rituals. It seems that both superstars had an affinity for a little powder on their hands before the game.
LeBron James made this a habit in his first few years as a pro in Cleveland. Just before tipoff, he would walk over to the scorer’s table, where the announcers also sit, and pour some rosin on his hands. With the powder in both hands, he would then thrust it straight up the air over his outstretched arms, creating a majestic white cloud above him. Cleveland Cavaliers fans went wild for it, and eventually threw up white confetti in sync with James’ chalk toss. While this routine is meant to be climactic, epic, and flat-out cool, Michael Jordan had a different motivation behind his routine.
Jordan’s routine was more humorous than James’s. Though he would pour chalk in his hands in the same area James did, he would then clap them together in the faces of the people sitting behind the scorer’s table. His playfulness was eventually reciprocated, as the seated members of the media began wearing protection in order to avoid a cloud of powder hitting them in the face. Eventually, as is the case with many rituals that begin as jokes, MJ did this regularly. Success will make someone do that, which again proves the power of superstitions in sports.
Few players in the history of basketball have ever matched the sheer intensity of Kevin Garnett. One of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game, Garnett was a fierce competitor on both the offensive and defensive end. If one was to encapsulate this vicious mindset of his into one single action, look no further than KG’s pre-game ritual.
Before the game began, the always-intense Garnett would walk to the padded stanchion behind the baseline and underneath the basket. Usually already covered in sweat, he would stand inches from the padding with his head bowed. Then after a few moments, he would pound his head into the stanchion, effectively letting the beast out of its cage for a 48-minute battle. It was an awe-inspiring moment for the fans that got a chance to see it, as a true warrior was readying himself for the fights that lay ahead. This pre-game ritual served to psych Garnett up, allowing him to reach the level of focus that would allow him to dominate on both ends of the floor.
Other than being one of the most unstoppable forces to ever set foot on a court, Shaquille O’Neal was known throughout his career as a colorful personality, to say the least. While Shaq usually turned up the heat once the game began, much of his pre-game routines were pure entertainment.
When Shaq was with the Phoenix Suns, he adopted a superstition that was a sight to behold. Once the Suns took the court, Shaq would stand out of bounds and proceed to bowl his teammates over, usually with a tilting player/pin finishing off the strike. This superstition served many purposes. It was obviously entertaining to the crowd in attendance, as Shaq was usually in charge of all shenanigans on the court. Additionally, it served to loosen up the star center and his teammates, which boosted the morale of the squad as they chased another victory.
As the cornerstone of the original Boston Celtics dynasty, no one did more winning in a career than Bill Russell. One of the premier centers in basketball history, the relentless defender and unparalleled rebounder was intense both during games and before them.
No matter how many banners he helped put up in the rafters for the Celtics, Russell still got jitters before games. These nerves resulted in violent vomiting before taking the court. You would think that his teammates would be concerned for their leader’s well being. However, this only reassured them that Russell was ready to go out and dominate. Legendary coach Red Auerbach knew this as well. Prior to a playoff game they were in against the Philadelphia 76ers, Auerbach had not yet heard the familiar sounds of Bill’s explosive heaving. As a result, he halted the team’s pregame warm-up, and did not allow them to return the court until his center had coughed up his last meal. Clearly, superstitious activity is not even lost on 11-time champions.
“The Flash” has been a highlight reel for his entire career. The future Hall of Famer has become a three-time champion and NBA Finals MVP through his speed, athleticism, fearlessness, and tenacity on offense and defense. Always in impeccable shape, Wade’s pre-game ritual shows off some of the upper body strength that helps make him great.
Just before tipoff, Wade can be seen jogging over the hoop. He then casually takes off, grabbing both ends of the rim with two hands. What fans witness now is Wade, knocking out three pull-ups to match his jersey number. He easily propels his head up through the net, giving his arms a quick pump up before picking apart his opponent for the next 48 minutes. This superstition boosts the confidence of Wade due to the athleticism required to complete the task. As a result, Dwyane enters every game he plays in with a heightened sense of self-assurance, as shown by his trio of championship jewelry pieces.
Steph Curry’s sharp shooting ways from 3-point range have changed the way the game of basketball is played along with his trademark mouthguard hanging off the side of his mouth. What was once a sport dominated by 7-footers has become one that emphasizes skill players that spread the defense onto the perimeter. Steph Curry has become the poster child of this shift in basketball strategy, as evidenced by his pair of MVP trophies and championship rings with the Golden State Warriors.
Curry’s pre-game ritual displays the mastery of the deep shot that allowed him to take over professional basketball. It appears as if Curry has finished his practice routine before the game, and will now retreat to the locker room for one last team pep talk. Instead, Steph receives a pass from a security guard near the entrance of the tunnel, and fires away. This is the kind of shot that ordinary mortals may make once in a lifetime. But a once-in-a-generation talent like Curry is no simpleton, and amazingly makes his pre-game ritual shot with regularity. Fans flock to watch his genius with a basketball in his hands before the game begins, and Curry, the entertainer, leaves them satisfied. Other than his opponents, Curry’s superstitious routine puts smiles on everyone’s faces.
Charles Oakley was a crowd favorite during his time with the New York Knicks. His viciousness on the court made him a notorious competitor, and one who didn’t mind getting under the skin of his opponents. However, the incredibly intense Oakley apparently didn’t mind showing a little bit of love for the New York Knicks’ most famous fan, Spike Lee.
As a high-profile season-ticket holder who was fully devoted to his team, Lee drew the admiration of Charles Oakley. Before tipoff, Charles would give Spike some attention by delivering a pass to the famous filmmaker. Spike would inspect the game ball, ensuring that it was up to the standards of his beloved Knicks, then dish the rock back to Oakley. This small, but significant gesture showed a softer side of Oakley, while also showing that he was not above connecting with the Knicks faithful. None of them are more dutiful than Spike Lee, making him the perfect recipient for Charles’s pre-game ritual pass.
Jason Terry has made a solid and lengthy career out of being an elite scoring option off of the bench. A good shooter, Terry’s highlights are largely composed of scoring whirlwinds that put the other team away or bring his squad right back into contention. Another thing Terry was known for was getting under the skin of his opponents.
Terry is one of the most superstitious professional basketball players of all time. His list of pre-game rituals included wearing the shorts of the following day’s opponent as he went to bed the night before, eating any sort of chicken on game day, and putting on knee-high socks in honor of his father. In terms of analyzing superstitions and rituals, it is tough to pin down Terry’s motivation. The wearing of the opponent’s shorts can be attributed to getting a mental edge, as well as allowing him to get into the head of the other team. Next, perhaps the taste of chicken made Terry happy, and therefore loose? Your guess is as good as ours on that one. The knee- high socks give Jason a sense of his lineage, honoring the look his father had. Regardless of where these rituals come from, there is not denying that Jason Terry has some of the most off-the-wall and diverse set of superstitions in professional basketball.
There are a few common themes between all of the aforementioned players who have their own quirky pre-game rituals. One is that they are incredibly superstitious, and respect the potential that not carrying them out has on the outcome of the game. The other is that each of these players has been incredibly successful throughout his career. Is this somehow the reason they were able to achieve greatness? Not likely. However, it is worth noting that a sense of assurance is always helpful for an athlete decked out in basketball gear, ready for battle. With consistent, unwavering dedication to one’s pregame ritual, there is no telling what can be accomplished on the basketball court.