What Do NBA Players Do Before a Game?

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While basketball is only a game for some, it’s a source of income for NBA players. That means they need to breathe, eat, and think basketball if they want to keep their jobs and million-dollar salaries. Obviously, though, every basketball player is different, and it follows that their preparations vary depending on their individual games and preferences. Considering these things, what do NBA players do before a game? Take a closer look at the pre-game routines of the most famous NBA players.

How Do NBA Players Prepare Before a GameHow Do NBA Players Prepare Before a Game?

Among the 450 or so players in NBA rosters at any given time, each of them has different pregame quirks. Many of them, however, are superstitious, so they tend to take note of what they did before a good game and try to follow the same routine.

One example is eating peanut butter and jelly (PB&J) sandwiches. It’s rumored that Kevin Garnett started the “cult” after he wound up with a good game after eating them. The pregame PB&J consumption became a “secret addiction,” and almost everybody is doing it.

Apart from pregame meals, a player has to juggle being physically ready but not too tired to perform. Resting is also a form of recovery, but they also have to ensure they don’t have too much or too little. Too much rest can make one feel sluggish, while too little leads to fatigue.

The mental aspect of the game should also be given importance. Players at this level “locked in” before the game, referring to their mental preparations. Again, this may differ from individual to individual; some like to listen to blasting music to get pumped up, while others retreat to a quiet area. Whatever the case, the objective is to be focused on the task at hand.

How Early Do NBA Players Arrive Before a GameHow Early Do NBA Players Arrive Before a Game?

NBA games are usually 7 or 8 PM in their time zone but make no mistake about it, players arrive at games way earlier than one would expect. They may get to the venue as early as 8 AM, do some skill work, lift, and whatnot, and go back home (or in the hotel for road games) at 12 noon. 

From there, some may take a nap, go back to the arena from 2 to 3 in the afternoon to watch game tape, and do individual workouts. Somewhere along the way is a pregame meal, which may include chicken, pasta, or the aforementioned peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At least 30 minutes before game time, the players may warm up on the court for all the fans to see. 

Do NBA Players Eat Before a GameDo NBA Players Eat Before a Game?

Yes, they do. Eating a meal is a massive part of the preparation. On game days, some NBA players start with a heavy breakfast loaded with carbohydrates such as bagels and jam, pancakes and syrup, or cereal with skimmed milk. A carb-rich breakfast is thought to give the players energy to get them through practices, weight training sessions, conditioning drills, and other pregame activities.

If the players have to eat a meal after breakfast, it is best to do so 1.5 to three hours before the game. The reason is that a full stomach right before a game consumes energy for digestion, leaving you less energy for the game itself. They may also bring a snack during the game, but if you want to emulate snacking during a game, it’s better to consume healthier food choices.

Examples of Pre-game Routines from Notable NBA PlayersExamples of Pre-game Routines from Notable NBA Players

Players need time to dress, tape their ankles, stretch, complete warm-up drills, and practice shooting before the game. But that’s about where the similarities end and the differences begin. Here is your favorite NBA players game day routine:

1. Steph Curry

For a unique guy like Steph Curry, a pre-game routine is not a one-step process. Aside from rest, stretching, warmup, breathing exercises, and proper nutrition, Curry is big on the mental side of things. Steph takes time to visualize what’s supposed to happen on the court– buzzer-beaters, diving for loose balls, and high-pressure situations. Along with some breathing exercises, visualization helps keep Steph in control of his emotions.

2. LeBron James

Workout and preparation are all in a day’s work for LeBron James. But what really makes him tick before a game? Music. James confessed he listens to hip-hop music before every game to set the mood and hype him up.

3. Kobe Bryant

There’s nothing Kobe like to do before games than work. He does not conduct any fixed warmup drills, but rather a basic circuit of exercises to get him going. These drills include shooting close to the basket and extending the range to the three-point line. Kobe did warmups, but he generally listens to how his body feels and adjusts his pre-game routines accordingly.

4. Michael Jordan

MJ is the GOAT for many basketball fans. His maniacal obsession for winning was well-documented, and it’s not surprising that his pre-game routines were fine-tuned. But, for some personal reason, Jordan likes to gorge on steak and potatoes as his pre-game meal. His trainer, Tim Grover, did not want MJ to sugar crash as the fourth quarter rolled around. A sugar crash is pretty common when athletes load up on carbs, so Jordan loaded up on protein before every game.

5. Toni Kukoc

Pregame meals for basketball players are important, but Kukoc, who was Jordan’s teammate in three championship teams from 1996 to 1998, took it to another level. As described by Steve Kerr in one of the Open Court episodes, Kukoc likes to feast on a heavy meal capped with wine and a shot of espresso (and a trip to the toilet) before every game. 

6. Ray Allen

Before Steph Curry became the poster boy for three-pointers, it was Ray Allen’s world. “Jesus Shuttlesworth” did the same routine for 15 seasons, and the key for him to become one of the best shooters in basketball history. His pre-game routine involves making five shots each on every spot and five distances. That would be a total of 150 made shots if you did the math!

7. Kevin Durant

As any basketball fan would know, KD is a different breed of scorer. The secret to his uncanny ability to his shots is probably his interesting pre-game warmup routine. This includes some type of balancing work more reminiscent of a figure skater or a ballerina than a basketball player.

@espn #KevinDurant has one of the most interesting pregame routines in the #NBA! 🔥 #kd #basketball ♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

8. Chris Paul

Basketball players are superstitious, and CP3 is probably the worst of them all. In a GQ interview, Paul revealed that every time he goes to practice, a game, or a road trip, he had to do everything related to No. 3. He takes three sips of water, kisses his wife three times, and before the jump ball, he slams his back to the basket stanchion three times.

9. Kyrie Irving

Kyrie is as skilled as anyone that laced a basketball sneaker, but one thing he’s above others is his insane ballhandling skills. Apparently, the secret is the “piano-style” dribbling routine before the game. You just have to see it to believe it.

10. Nikola Jokic

The reigning two-time MVP comes to games early to do one thing first, and it’s not doing stretches or lifting weights. Jokic’s pre-game habit is to play ping-pong or table tennis with the Nuggets’ equipment manager. That’s admittedly a little weird, but you can’t argue with the results.

Wrapping Things Up: What Do NBA Players Do Before a Game?

NBA players are normal human beings (aside from the fact that they’re giants and really good at basketball). That means you can expect them to be a little superstitious, and they tend to repeatedly do the things that ease their nerves and make them comfortable.

So, what do NBA players do before a game? They eat, stretch, lift, do drills, watch game films, and do other things to prepare for a game. Some, like Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant, always put a premium on mental preparation. Others like Ray Allen are machine-like in his approach to shooting. LeBron James listens to hip-hop music, and Nikole Jokic plays table tennis with a Nuggets staff. Each of these players has their own ways to get psyched up, but it’s all in a day’s work for the greatest athletes in the world.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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