Culture Features The Katchup

Six Odd Ways Food Has Shaped The Modern NBA

“I’m always looking for a good story and am always looking for a way to build connections with readers and athletes. The culinary world and food, it’s one of the few things that makes us all human,” shared ESPN Senior NBA Writer, Baxter Holmes, on a recent visit to Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast.

Holmes has been the writer behind some of the most intriguing stories in the NBA that just so happen to be food-related, uncovering fascinating anecdotes the likes of the NBA’s obsession with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and even how San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich used extravagant dinners to build the team’s enviable camaraderie.

A hot-button discussion that strikes a chord with foodies and basketball fans alike, the following are a quick rundown of some of these compelling NBA food tales as told by Baxter Holmes.



According to Holmes, the very first food-related NBA story he wrote was on Kobe Bryant’s special bone broth that he would have before games in the latter stages of his legendary career. “I remember talking to [the Lakers’] strength and conditioning coach about everything it takes to get Kobe up and running, because he was older in his career and had a lot of injuries.” That coach mentioned that they made sure the Black Mamba got his soup of specially made bone broth before games, since the collagen in it was optimal for joint health. “They would contact hotels ahead of time to make sure hey had all the right ingredients, and [Kobe] liked it in different ways.” Father Time stays undefeated, folks.



“He was consuming so much sugar everyday. His hands were tingling because of it and he was having a hard time catching a ball.” In 2013, Dwight Howard was dealing with a serious addiction to sugar, as Holmes revealed in one story that the big man was consuming 24 chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every day — for more than a decade. It all came to a freighting head when Howard started experiencing pre-diabetic symptoms, which thankfully was a wake up call to change his diet immediately.



“I would see peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in every locker room before games and I would see them in training facilities.” This James Beard-Award winning Holmes article was a fascinating glimpse into the NBA’s secret addiction to the classic and humble sandwich. Why? Well, simply put, it’s comfort food. No hidden benefits to recovery, no special potency to aid in performance — all they wanted was a soothing memory from childhood. Kevin Garnett had to have strawberry jelly, while Damian Lillard preferred his toasted.



“He’s been into wine and food for a long time, like 50 years. And he’s been doing this with the Spurs for like 20 years.” One of Holmes’ more recent stories was an extensive revelation on how San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, with the help of his extensive knowledge of wine and food, used extravagant, Michelin-star caliber wining and dining to build camaraderie within the organization. The close-knit team culture created as a result of these dinners has translated to multiple championships and an organization-wide togetherness that’s become the envy of the entire sports world, and not just the NBA exclusively. Holmes explains, “The amount of people who were involved with the Spurs, still involved with the Spurs, they described these experiences as the backbone of the camaraderie that you would see on the court.”



“Using cranberries and Marcona almonds, Kerr was like ‘Here’s how we want to function.'” When Steve Kerr first came on board as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, he envisioned a potent offense, but hadn’t really constructed and schemed it out yet. At an airport bar, a bartender asked the new coach how the offense would run. Kerr, working with what was immediately available to him, used elements of the charcuterie board he had ordered to illustrate how players would function within his system. Four years and three championships later, the Golden State Warriors have cemented the capability of their high-octane offense predicated on ball and player movement and three-pointers galore — all of which have shaped how the modern NBA game is played today.



I think it’s safe to say that the Portland Trailblazers are coffee snobs. Nevermind the Portlandian factor, but the team’s penchant for quality coffee was documented by Holmes as a way to keep the players fresh and alert. We’re talking the team’s training and performance staff grinding beans and brewing fancy French press coffee right before the start of the game. And with the Blazers having to travel more miles over the course of a season than any other team in American professional sports, it’s understandable that their sports performance specialists become baristas right before tip-off. “They’re traveling 250 miles a day. Imagine if every single day you flew from New York to Pittsburgh — for eight months,” illustrated Holmes.

Celebrity Grub Cravings

NBA Stars Are Secretly Addicted To PB&Js And The Problem Is League-Wide

There are worse addictions out there, but it’s still kind of strange that there are numerous NBA players who absolutely need a peanut butter and jelly fix to get through the day.

From future hall-of-famer Kevin Garnett to rookies like the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes documented the serious league-wide addiction that players can’t seem to shake.

The reason is uncertain, but for some like Garnett, it came from superstition. For others, like New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis, they just kind of adopted the trend.

Since PB&Js aren’t exactly at the healthiest meal option, in a sport where your physical abilities are everything, players have literally had to fight to keep these sandwiches in their diet.

Check out some of the superstars and their documented stories with the sweet, sweet sandwich:


Stephen Curry

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After getting a new physical trainer in 2015, the Golden State Warriors literally had to fight to keep their PB&Js. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry said he felt “shook” when the sandwiches disappeared from the team jet. The team was OK with doing away with candy, cookies, and soda, but when their peanut butter and jelly and sandwiches were taken away, it was a real problem. Interim coach Luke Walton fought along with them and they eventually, after daily complaints, appeared again, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Kevin Garnett

To be continued…

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When Garnett played for the Boston Celtics, strawberry PB&Js became part of his pre-game ritual after he noticed he played well after eating them. The Celtics strength and conditioning coach didn’t mind the sandwich ritual as it seemed better than the usual greasy food players eat pre-game.


Dwight Howard

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In the case of Atlanta Hawks’ Dwight Howard, he had a full-on candy addiction where he ate up to 24 candy bars a day. When he finally shook his need for candy in 2013, he fought his nutritionist to let him keep his PB&Js. He didn’t get to keep his usual sandwich, but they settled on soft sourdough with organic peanut butter and low-sugar jelly.


Brandon Ingram

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Los Angeles Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram has been criticized for his thin frame, so maybe binging on these sammiches would help. Ingram’s pretty picky with his sandwiches, as he only uses organic ingredients, and goes with grape jelly. The rook thought his addiction might not translate well in the NBA, but he soon found out that it was a league-wide thing and kept with it.


Kristaps Porzingis

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The Latvian-born New York Knicks star didn’t even know what a peanut butter jelly sandwich was, but as soon as he joined the league, he immediately fell in love with them.

Celebrity Grub Cravings

Dwight Howard Ate 24 Candy Bars A Day To Feed His Addiction

NBA All-Star Dwight Howard struggled with an addiction that left his hands and legs shaking, affected his on-court performance, and left his family and friends terrified for his well-being. He wasn’t addicted to cocaine, speed, or even any other illegal drug. His high came from grocery store aisles, in the form of candy bars.

When he was a Los Angeles Laker, the team’s nutritionist, Dr. Cate Shanahan, found out that Howard ate 24 candy bars a day for possibly a decade, as he eventually complained of tingling in his limbs, according to ESPN.

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“Shanahan, with two decades of experience in the field, knew Howard possessed a legendary sweet tooth, and she suspected his consumption of sugar was causing a nerve dysfunction called dysesthesia, which she’d seen in patients with pre-diabetes,” the ESPN article read.

She called the people closest to Howard, from his body guard, to his personal chef, and found that before every meal, Howard ate all sorts of candy such as Skittles, Starbursts, Snickers, Twizzlers, Kit-Kats, and his favorite, Reese’s Pieces. The sugar from all the candy equaled up to 24 candy bars, daily.

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Similar to former NBA player Lamar Odom’s highly-publicized candy addiction, Howard would hide stashes of candy in his bedroom, kitchen, and even his car.

After an intervention, Howard begrudgingly kicked his sugary addiction in 2013, and the tingling in his hands and legs went away.

This might be why struggled in Los Angeles, but the irrational Laker fan inside me thinks this is just a sweet excuse.

h/t brobible


Watch NBA’s Dwight Howard Squirm During Cookie Challenge [VIDEO]

Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic was was host of the 2012 NBA All-Star weekend held in Orlando Feb. 22-24. During his busy weekend, he found time to take a cookie challenge where in one minute, he attempted to get a chocolate chip cookie from his forehead to his mouth without using his hands.

Watch Dwight get his Cookie Monster on and make awkward faces for one minute. Was he successful in his chocolaty challenge?


Video:McDonald's LeBron James and Dwight Howard Dunk Off