Athletes are creatures of habit. Specifically, basketball players have some of the most intricate pre-game routines that you will see.
Fans will often arrive at NBA arenas early for a chance to catch a glimpse of how players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook prepare for games.
Curry puts on a show before each game with his dribble workouts and long-distance shots from various areas in the arena. While Curry appears to have more fun in his routine, James looks to be more locked in with his approach. He takes a certain number of shots from different positions on the floor and mixes in free-throw shots as well.
Each player is different and each one likes to do certain things before games. Some prefer listening to uptempo music before a game, while others enjoy listening to smooth music instead.
Some players have even mentioned that they don’t feel right if they skip a step during their workout, or will even attribute an off-night to a change in their routine or a change in something that they might have eaten prior to the game.
College basketball players are no different. Most players have something that they must do before a game or warm up a specific way. Basketball Insiders recently caught up with several college players to find out how they prepare for games.
Players developing some odd superstitions over the years are also pretty common as well. Former Morehead State guard Xavier Moon developed one following his freshman year of high school.
“I have a lucky wife-beater that I wear,” Moon said. “It’s like olive green. I probably have been wearing it since ninth grade in high school. I wear it under my jersey.”
It’s not all that uncommon for players to wear lucky undershirts or other items of clothing under their uniforms. It has been said that Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts when he played in the NBA. Jason Terry has been known to wear his competitors’ shorts to bed the night before a game.
Moon was quick to avoid a comparison to Jordan, but he said wearing his undershirt was sort of similar to Jordan and his shorts. Moon wore that shirt under his jersey for every game.
Panic nearly set in when he misplaced it before one game.
“One game I thought I didn’t have it,” Moon said. “I had two book bags and my game book bag that’s the one I put all of my stuff in. I was going through it and said, ‘Man, I don’t even have my wife-beater so I can’t even play.’ I’m going through my stuff and I’m like, ‘I got to find my wife-beater.’ One of my teammates had it in his book bag. I almost cried.”
Don’t worry, Moon washed his lucky shirt before every game.
Like Moon, former Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame had a superstition as well. Although his superstition may not be nearly as unique as a favorite olive green shirt, Blossomgame did opt to wear a certain pair of shoes this season at Clemson.
“I kind of believe if I play well in one pair of shoes, I have to keep wearing that pair of shoes,” Blossomgame said. “It’s kind of crazy because I do that almost every game, but I just believe in stuff like that.”
Blossomgame wore a pair of Kevin Durant’s shoes for three games this season but decided to change them up after he described his play as “terrible” for those three games. He made a change and played in a pair of LeBron James’ shoes for the rest of the year.
“I got a pair of LeBron’s from the Nike Skills Academy that I’ve been wearing,” Blossomgame said. “I played well in them versus North Carolina and I played well in them versus Notre Dame.”
Odds are that if you find a picture of Blossomgame at Clemson from this past season, he was wearing a pair of LeBron’s.
For some players, a pre-game meal or drink is key to get them ready for a game. Players with a sugar addiction will often have some candy before a game, or perhaps even a soda. Former Georgetown guard L.J. Peak has another must-have drink before tipoff.
“I drink a cup of coffee right before I go out,” Peak said. “It gives me energy, it feels like.”
Some may remember that former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova also drank coffee before games. His addiction was so bad that he was forced to be treated for dehydration following Game 3 of the 2015 NBA Finals.
Peak was reminded of Dellavedova’s incident and he reassured Basketball Insiders that his pre-game cup of coffee wouldn’t reach that point of dehydration.
The Music Selection
While some players like to be social and joke around with teammates before a game, others prefer to use their free time to listen to music and clear their mind. The music selection often varies from player to player, but not all players necessarily want to listen to music to hype them up before a game.
“I don’t listen to hard music or the new stuff,” Chaminade point guard Austin Pope said. “I listen to the smooth R&B to kind of keep me smooth; that’s how I like to play. I get in my zone that way and before a game say my prayers and go to work.”
We’ve seen players like Westbrook and others have special dances with teammates to help get them hyped before a game. Westbrook and Cameron Payne famously had a dance routine they would do just prior to tipoff. Payne has since been traded and Westbrook now dances with Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson before games. Other players like different methods to prepare for a game.
“I have to sit in the locker room by myself and listen to music to block everything off,” Morehead State forward Keion Alexander said. “I prefer to listen to Jay-Z. After that, I jog around the arena once.”
Players often enjoy getting a good workout in before a game, too. Some like to run through a game plan they may have before a game and practice specific things they might like to try out.
Fans that arrive early to games will often also see players warming up on the court and stretching. In recent memory, players have started to use resistance bands to help warm up even better.
“I like watching YouTube videos and watch highlights of them and then go to the arena,” Iowa guard Peter Jok said. “This year, I haven’t been able to do what I always do because I’ve been injured. In the past, I go to the gym and start working on the shots I’m going to take in the game.”
Some players like to have a little bit of fun prior to a game and will often attempt some crazy shots. Of course, Curry has one of the most infamous pregame shots in the NBA when he attempts a shot from the tunnel behind the bench.
It’s a common theme to see a lot of players attempt shots from half court after they finish up a workout, or right before a game tips off. Andre Drummond has attempted one-handed shots from just inside the paint before he works out.
Former North Florida guard Beau Beech told Basketball Insiders last season that he liked to shoot left-handed free throws before a game. He was a career 76 percent free-throw shooter in college but said he could hit on about 60 percent of those attempts as a lefty in warmups.
Athletes are some of the most superstitious people that you’ll come across. It seems as though just about every player across all sports has some sort of pre-game ritual or superstition that they follow. Each player has something different they like to do, but more often than not, they’re pretty entertaining to say the least.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.