In addition to housing a surprising number of flat-earth conspiracy theorists, the NBA is home to many of the world’s most dynamic, inventive athletes. There are also, as a delightful investigation on ESPN reveals, a shocking number of peanut butter and jelly devotees among those players. Like, all of them.
As Baxter Holmes reports, almost every major team in the NBA preps dozens of PB&J sandwiches for players as a pre-game, mid-game, and post-game snack. Each team and even each player has their own preferences that must be adhered to:
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 Rockets make sure the PB&J is available in their kitchen at all times, in all varieties—white and wheat bread, toasted, untoasted, Smucker’s strawberry and grape, Jif creamy and chunky—and offer 12 to 15 sandwiches pregame, with PB&J reinforcements provided at halftime and on postgame flights… 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.
And on and on it goes through each team’s gauntlet of artisanal butters, breads, and jams. Some swear by white bread, others go organic. Some use almond butter, others use crunchy Skippy. In Milwaukee, rookies are forced to make them on plane rides; in Cleveland, they foist shitty processed “Uncrustables” on opposing teams.
It all started when legendary competitor Kevin Garnett, then a Celtic, ordered some for his team during their legendary championship run. Afterward, as the team disbanded throughout the league, players took the habit with them, such that it has become a decade-long institution among players. The teams’ sports nutritionists have reacted with some chagrin, as a PB&J is not exactly the healthiest snack imaginable, but the teams also know that some things are better left untouched. One nutritionist may have lost his damn job over the PB&J issue. It is sacred among players.
As for why, the article floats a few theories, including how comforting it is for players who are often on the road and under high stress to control something basic like their pre-game meal. But Holmes writes in favor of the perfection of the sandwich itself, which in one easily consumed package delivers so many of the things we’re evolutionarily predisposed to enjoy (fat, sugar, starch, protein, and salt) that the resulting serotonin and endorphin rush is close to the one we get from having sex. So yeah, PB&Js are delicious, but now you have an even better reason why.
The whole thing’s a fascinating story, and it will probably make you very hungry. You can read it here.