Close your eyes. Picture an intense Kevin Garnett, with laser eyes and a mean mug, walking into an arena on gameday. He emerges from the tunnel in his baggy Celtics warmups and his head down as if he was staring right through the floor. He bangs his head against the mat under the hoop and furiously pounds his chest. It's time for KG to do work.
In between these intense preparations, envision Garnett back in the locker room grabbing a plastic bag with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in it. The bag is labeled "K. Garnett" in Sharpie as if written with love by a mother for their child to take to Middle School. KG takes the PB&J out of the bag and starts chowing down.
Yes, this is what really used to happen. The championship Celtics aren't only known for raising a banner in 2008, but also for their pregame sandwiches that sparked a revolution in the NBA.
It all started when an anonymous member of the Celtics' roster noted his hunger before a game, saying that he could go for a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Of course, Kevin Garnett was all over it and instantly requested that they get some PB&Js in the locker room ASAP. Since the sandwich worked wonders for them in the game, KG announced that the PB&Js would have to be an everyday thing. Thus, the story begins.
ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes describes the birth of the pregame sandwich craze best in his PB&J exclusive story:
The legend has been passed down by NBA generations, chronicled like a Homeric odyssey. The tale they tell is of Kevin Garnett and the 2007-08 Celtics, and the seminal moment of a revolution. Bryan Doo, Celtics strength and conditioning coach, recalls it as if it were yesterday, how before a game in December of that season, an unnamed Celtic -- his identity lost to history, like the other horsemen on Paul Revere's midnight ride -- complained to Doo of incipient hunger pangs.
"Man, I could go for a PB&J," the player said.
And then Garnett, in an act with historical reverberations, uttered the now-fabled words: "Yeah, let's get on that."
Garnett had not, to that point, made the PB&J a part of his pregame routine. But on that night in Boston, as Doo recalls, Garnett partook, then played ... and played well. Afterward, from his perch as the Celtics' fiery leader, Garnett issued the following commandment: "We're going to need PB&J in here every game now."
And so a sandwich revolution was born.
Doo went on to make 20 or so PB&J sangys a couple of hours before every game, even catering to players' specific preferences like strawberry versus grape and smooth versus chunky peanut butter. As time went on and more Celtics wins were accumulated, word got out of the performance enhancement sandwiches that Boston players were receiving each game. Naturally, they wanted in:
In time, as visiting teams swung through Boston, opposing players caught wind that a new day had dawned. DiFrancesco recalls hearing from his troops during a visit: "Wait a minute, there's PB&J's in the Celtics' locker room? Can we get some?"
The spread of this sacred pregame movement officially started to take shape. It really gained momentum, though, when members of the Celtics roster began playing in other areas. Like pollen traveling in the wind to pollinate other plants, Celtic players brought their PB&J ways along with them to infect other locker rooms. KG and Paul Pierce brought the craze to Brooklyn, Big Baby Davis and Tony Allen spread (the peanut butter and jelly) to Orlando and Memphis, and Doc Rivers carried the tale to the other side of the country in Los Angeles.
I am not kidding when I say that this is a league-wide epidemic:
The Trail Blazers offer 20 crustless, halved PB&J's pregame -- 10 of them toasted, a mandate ever since an opposing arena prepared them as such and Blazers guard Damian Lillard approved.
The secretive Spurs, it has been confirmed, indulge in their own pregame PB&J's. The Clippers, at home and on the road, go through two loaves of bread, almond and peanut butters, and assorted jellies from Whole Foods. The Pelicans offer PB&J everywhere: hotel rooms, flights, locker rooms. The Wizards had some "minor uprisings" from players, one source says, when management tried to upgrade team PB&J's with organic peanut butter on whole grain bread -- but peace was restored when each side compromised to include all options.
The Bucks might boast the NBA's most elaborate PB&J operation: a pregame buffet featuring smooth, crunchy and almond butters, an assortment of jellies (raspberry, strawberry, grape, blueberry, apricot), three breads from a local bakery (white, wheat and gluten-free) and Nutella. The team scarfs 20 to 30 PB&J's per game and travels with the ingredients, which rookies prepare on the plane and in visiting locker rooms.
It's a tale of two diets in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs, courtesy of a partnership with fellow Ohio-based outfit Smucker's, foist about a dozen of the company's prepackaged Uncrustables PB&J's on opposing teams every game night. (Both the Lakers' and Celtics' strength and conditioning coaches tell their players to avoid those processed, once-frozen snacks.) But the Cavs fare far better with their fare, serving themselves 20 artisanal PB&J's prior to tip-off...
These are full-grown men in elite shape who are addicted to PB&Js! The Wizards were ready to revolt when management tried to make their PB&Js healthier. The Cavs embrace the concept of their homecourt advantage by providing opposing teams with prepackaged Uncrustables, while providing state of the art PB&J-making ingredients to their own players.
I mean, the overall intricacy, strategy, and attention to detail that's involved with these peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are mindblowing. In a fast-paced league with tons of travel, I guess the sandwiches serve as players' constant that can bring them back to their childhood. It really is a bizarre trend. A few athletes may just be superstitious with their pregame rituals, but it seems like everyone else in the league are simply addicted.
No wonder the C's haven't brought home a title since then! They should've kept their PB&J use a secret so that the copy-cats of the league didn't gain the same advantage!
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Original photo (before edits) by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images Erik Johnson 3/22/2017 04:45:00 PM Tweet Edit