Knock On Hardwood: NBA Players A Superstitious Lot

Colton Jones

With ESPN's "The Last Dance" having become all but must-see television for craved sports fans across the planet, viewers are seeing sides of Michael Jordan they have not seen previously.

It's no secret the iconic Chicago Bulls (and later, Washington Wizards) superstar left an indelible legacy, several aspects of which are still felt to this day.

Part of Jordan's legacy are some superstitions, acts which became part of his every-game ritual.

A true-blue tale

Jordan led the North Carolina Tar Heels to the 1982 NCAA national championship and wanting to take part of his collegiate experience with him to the next level, he decided to wear his North Carolina practice shorts under his Bulls games shorts.

However, as was the case in that era, Chicago's game shorts were, well, short shorts, meaning Jordan's practice shorts would show.

So Jordan began wearing longer game shorts with the Bulls, a trend which the University of Michigan's Fab Five -- which included future NBA players Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard -- embraced and has now (thankfully) become commonplace across all levels of the game.

Dust in the wind

Jordan also made a habit of putting rosin on his hands just before the opening tip of games, then clapping his hands, dusting late Bulls broadcaster Johnny "Red" Kerr, a Bulls icon who played in the league (winning an NBA championship in 1954-55 with the Syracuse Nationals and making three All-Star teams) and later served as the Bulls' first head coach for their first two seasons, beginning in 1966-67.

The pregame-rosin ritual later became a superstition for Kevin Garnett and then LeBron James.

Another of the superstitions of Garnett -- who played 20 seasons in the NBA and making 15 All-Star Games -- was eating at least one peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich before every game, a ritual his teammates on the Boston Celtics would also adapt.

Following the lead of Jordan, here are a few other superstitions NBA players utilized:

Double no-nos

Caron Butler had a couple superstitions, both of which the Wizards believed were counterproductive and were consequently banned.

The first tipped off during Butler's high school days, when he would drink half of a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew pregame.

He would later chug the other half of the bottle at halftime of the game.

The Wizards eventually figured it was not in Butler's best interests (nor theirs, as a team) for Butler to do so, so they halted it.

The other was Butler's fondness for straws. He would chomp on up to a dozen a game, having picked them up from McDonald's or Burger King.

He once admitted to ESPN he went through 15 to 20 straws a game.

"I don't do these. I don't do 7-11 straws or anything. McDonalds, Burger King, that's it," Butler once said. "Not Wendy's. Maybe Subway, because their straw is thick, clear, with a clear wrapping, but that's it.

"McDonalds, Burger King.....Cheesecake Factory's got the black straws. Their kind of thick. That's good quality straws."

Butler would cut the straws into pieces and crew them throughout games, another practice which would be disallowed, not by the Wizards but the NBA.

Day in, day out

Ray Allen is remembered as one of the best shooters to ever play the game.

The sharpshooter developed a routine he used every game-day throughout his stellar 18-season career:

  • 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. -- Take a nap.
  • 2:30 p.m. -- Eat a meal consisting of chicken and rice.
  • 3:30 p.m. -- Shave his head and hit the court.
  • 3 hours before tipoff -- Begin his pregame warmup routine.

Mr. Clean

Given the current circumstances across the globe, NBA players may be wise to follow the lead of Rajon Rondo.

The Los Angeles Lakers point guard is known for his passing and tenacious defense, but his teammates also know him for taking five showers on game days.

A short reversal

Former San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan had a plethora of superstitions, including hanging from the rim just before his name was announced during pregame introductions.

However, Duncan also had a superstition he utilized in practice.

“I wear my practice shorts backwards during practice," the five-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star once said. "In college, I came out of the locker room one practice and later realized my shorts were on backwards, so I didn’t bother to correct them.

"I had a great practice, and ever since it has been a tradition for me.”

NBA rules wouldn’t permit Duncan to wear his uniform shorts backwards during games, he has kept his superstition alive in practice as the Spurs' bench coach and still does to this day.

Another short story

Jordan wasn't the only NBA player to have a superstition about shorts.

In fact, it could be said Jason Terry took his obsession to even another level.

The longtime NBA guard slept in the shorts of his team's next opponent the night before they squared off.

These weren't knockoff shorts you and I buy at the local discount store, either -- they were actual shorts Terry has collected from friends and acquaintances across the league, including players and even equipment managers.

Terry's collection of game shorts must be quite extensive -- he played in the league for 19 seasons, playing for six teams.

By the way, Terry would also eat chicken for his pregame meal and wear five pair of socks for every game.

Rim shot

The aforementioned Garnett and Duncan -- along with Vince Carter -- made a habit of hanging from the rim just before games tipped, but Dwyane Wade took it to another level.

Wade would not only hang from the rim, but do three pullups, pulling his head past the eight of the rim each time.

One-way street

The late Rasual Butler played 13 seasons in the NBA and his pregame routine went left to right.

  • He would put his arms through his game jerseys left arm first.
  • He always tied his left shoe first.

Butler had another superstition -- he would take exactly five sips of water before entering a game -- always.

Quite a hurler

Bill Russell is regarded by pretty much everyone as the game's greatest winner.

The Boston Celtics legend won 11 NBA championship rings as a player, two as a coach, was a five-time league Most Valuable Player and made 12 All-Star Games.

However, Russell didn't pile up that impressive list of accomplishments without some uneasiness.

Quite a bit, in fact, according to another Celtics legend and teammate of Russell's, the late John Havlicek.

“He used to throw up all the time before a game, or at halftime," Havlicek said. "A tremendous sound, almost as loud as his laugh."

Havlicek added he and his Boston teammates didn't hold Russell's ritual against him.

"It’s a welcome sound, too," he said. "Because it means he’s keyed up for the game, and around the locker room, we grin and say, ‘Man, we’re going to be all right tonight.'”

In a biography by Murry Nelson, it is recounted the queasy scene before one Celtics playoff game. Hall of Fam coach Red Auerbach had not heard Russell throw up, so the coach supposedly ordered the team off the court during warm-ups and wouldn't let them back until Russell tossed his cookies.

Colton Jones is a regular contributor to SI.com and AmicoHoops.net.

Comments

NBA

FEATURED
COMMUNITY