Friday July 11th, 2014

Stripped to the waist, Ty Lawson may look like a Marvel superhero, but the cartoon character the Nuggets point guard identifies with is the Smurfs. “When I was younger, everyone said I couldn’t make it in the NBA because I was too small,” says the 5-11 point guard, who, by league standards, is elfin. “But I think you can make it anywhere.” It’s this “heart-over-height” attitude, he says, that took him from playing ball in a bad D.C.-area neighborhood to the University of North Carolina to playing in the NBA, and that has also inspired him, in partnership with 5-9 Nuggets point guard Nate Robinson, to launch a line of T-shirts bearing the catchphrase, “Smurf Gang,” for other vertically challenged kids with big basketball dreams.

Today, many Denver fans consider Lawson, who was drafted 18th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, to be one of the best point guards in the game. Last season, despite injuries that benched him for the playoffs, Lawson averaged 8.8 assists and 17.6 points per game, a career high. Whether it was this success or his frustration over missing the playoffs that caused the guard to turn the mirror inward, Lawson says he has big plans to drop pounds with a new weight-loss diet he adopted in recent weeks. “I was looking at pictures on Facebook, and I was like, ‘Wow my face was a lot thinner,’” Lawson says. “I’ve gotten fatter, so it’s a little bit of vanity with this diet. But I’ve lost two pounds in two weeks.” For more details about Lawson’s new diet, keep reading.

Ty Lawson
age height weight
26 years old 5-foot-11 195 lbs.

Training grounds: Denver and Los Angeles

Nickname: Chico. “‘I got it while I was in Lithuania [playing with the Euroleague during the NBA lockout]. I told [my Lithuanian teammates] I was staying in Miami for most of the summer, and they thought I was Mexican because they thought everyone from Miami must be Mexican. And I’ve just stayed with it.”

Body fat: 7 percent

Hours spent training per day: Up to two and a half

Days spent training per week: Five

Hours spent in the weight room per week: Up to seven

John W. McDonough/SI

Go-to workout: Shooting up to 400 shots per day. “If I don’t do anything else, I need to do that. That’s the moneymaker. If I don’t put the ball in the basket, I don’t make money.”

Secret workout: His new diet. “All I eat in the morning are oatmeal, eggs, and maybe some fruit. Then the rest of the day, I eat just chicken and yams. And I try not to put anything on the yams. It gives me more energy, and I’m starting to lose a little more weight because I want to get my body fat down to 5 or 4 [percent]—I want to be lighter on my feet and faster.”

Biggest physical challenge: Sleep. “I’m a night owl—I don’t sleep at all. I won’t go to sleep until 2 a.m., and then I probably wake up at 7 [a.m.]. I nap for three to four hours during the day, but I don’t sleep at night.”

Best recovery tip: Ice tubs. “I make sure I ice my knees and everything, so I don’t get any injuries.”

Calories consumed per day: “I really don’t look at calories. I don’t even know how many calories are in a bowl of cereal.”

Behind the Body: Brooklyn Nets Guard Joe Johnson

Favorite pre-game meal: Any type of pasta. “Spaghetti, fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna—as long as it’s pasta, that’s my go-to. I like a lot of Italian food.”

Typical recovery meal: A chicken burrito bowl from Chipotle. “That’s been my weakness. I get it with lettuce, rice, corn, and dressing. It’s not that bad for you, but I bet it’s probably high in calories.”

Celebration meal: Steak with mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. “It tastes good when you get the steak cooked medium. I grew up on this—my mom used to always make it.”

Dietary vice: Welch’s fruit snacks and potato chips. “I’ll run through like 10 [bags] of those in a day if they’re just sitting around the house. I also eat potato chips all the time—sour cream and cheese [flavors]. I’ll eat them in between meals. I’ll just grab a bunch and eat a whole bag in one day.”

Alcohol of choice: Cîroc. “It’s vodka with fruit. It’s pretty good. I’ll drink it whenever I’m celebrating something or in the summer.”

On how his local youth center helped him become a pro player: “My dad kept me in the gym, and after school, I always went to the youth center. I feel like if I didn’t do that in the area I’m from [in Clinton, Md.], I wouldn’t have ended up in [the NBA]. I could have easily fallen into the wrong realm, but I feel like the youth center really helped me.”

On what it means to be a member of “Smurf Gang”: “Me and [Nuggets point guard Nate Robinson], we’re doing a new line of T-shirts for smaller kids who want to make it [in basketball]. It’s called Smurf Gang. It’s like a following—every little guy who buys a shirt or gets a shirt, they’ll be part of something. It’s heart over height. When I was younger, everyone said I couldn’t make it in the NBA because I was too small. But I think you can make it anywhere.”

On what others say about his body: “Everybody says I have nice body. I haven’t worked out in couple weeks [due to an ankle injury], and my coaches tell me, ‘Damn, you look good.’ I say, ‘Really, I look good?’ I mean, I think I have a good body—I don’t know if it’s genetics or what, but I like it.”

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