Kevin Garnett and the PB&J Phenomenon


Legends tell of a time back in the 2007 NBA season when peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were not a hot commodity in the league. But, as with all great legends a hero arrives to save the day. The hero in today’s story is legendary power forward, Kevin Garnett.

In a PB&J-less league one man’s conversation with the team’s trainer would change everything.

It was mid-December in the training room of the Boston Celtics in the 2007-08 season. Only three people were present. A single unnamed Celtics player whose name has lost itself in the bowels of history, Celtics’ strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo and Garnett.

For all intents and purposes it was a standard day and the players were prepping for a game later in the day. It had all of the makings of another unnoteworthy pregame, until the now legendary unnamed Celtic complained to Doo about being hungry and commented “Man I could go for a PB&J.”

What happened next will go down in history as the beginning of the NBA’s PB&J renaissance.

Garnett, who was sitting idly by in the room seemed to think that was a good plan.

“Yeah, let’s get on that,” Garnett said, not knowing he would be adding to his basketball legacy in a rather unorthodox way.

Following that fateful day, the PB&J tradition began in Boston.

To longtime fans of the league, they know Garnett is famous for being superstitious and repeating the same warmups and rituals before every game for most if not all of his 21-year career. To be expected after they won that game, Garnett demanded that PB&J be served before every game from that point on.

The tradition was simple. Doo would make 20 sandwiches a few hours before tipoff and label them all based on what ingredients were inside the Ziploc bags. The players would take their picks with them to do whatever they did before the game and that was that. Garnett personally took two strawberry jelly ones with him and would become a monster if he was without them.

“If Kevin didn’t get his routine down, he’d be pissed,” Doo says. “Even if he didn’t eat them, he needed them to be there.”

From there the news and fame of the PB&J pregame ritual spread. After that Celtics team went on to win the NBA Championship, others borrowed from them the true secret of their success. Trainers around the league were bombarded with requests and could only hope to fill them or face the consequences.

It only infected more teams once the core players in that locker room left. Garnett and Paul Pierce took it with them to Brooklyn. Pierce moved again to Washington and told the tales of jelly spread splendor while KG did the same back in Minnesota. Coach Doc Rivers made it known when he took over the job in Los Angeles. Big Baby Davis did the same in Orlando while Tony Allen brought it to the Grit and Grinders in Memphis.

Almost every team in league partakes in the simple delicacy now and have their own ways of preparing it. Some use organic ingredients to provide an easier meal, other like to toast their bread for a quick change and more still go the traditional route. The most famous example other than the KG era Celtics would probably be the current Milwaukee Bucks, as they provide their players with a gourmet PB&J buffet with countless options before every game.

The Science

These schoolyard meals typically come pre-tipoff and on the flights home, but some trainers have a platter ready for a halftime boost. Trainers are treating this with the upmost care and in some cases, it is as important as a good workout. What goes into the body of a player before, during and after the game can easily impact their performance or recovery. The science behind the scenes of this craze is deeper than you might think.

Some dieticians for the association treat it as a simple meal and indulge their players, while others delve deeper; using diverse types of spread or adding a banana to the sandwiches. Protein and recovery shakes featuring the signature flavor and ingredients seem to see use more frequently in workouts nowadays and players who have dietary issues have more options involving their favorite food.

Not a single person knows the real reason as to why the ever-reliable sandwich has become a stable in the basketball world, but many people smarter than myself have tossed out some ideas. A common thought is that it is comforting for players who constantly take red-eye flights across the country and workout at strange times to have a snack they grew up on.

The phenomenon is baffling to outsiders and yet no one really wants to question it. The inner workings of the NBA for many are a mystery, so seeing something so simple become so prominent strengthens the connection between the fans and their favorite players.

Even to this day legend says Garnett still takes two with strawberry jam every day.

All quotes provided by ESPN

About Cale Michael

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