Superstitions and sports go hand in hand.
If you’ve ever played a sport at some point in life, there’s a very good chance that you had some sort of ritual (subconscious or otherwise) that you relied on to get physically and mentally prepared to play.
Those traditions tend to fall on a spectrum ranging from “Huh, That’s Interesting” to “This Person Needs To Be Put On Some Sort Of List”—and most of the ones longtime NBA point guard Gilbert Arenas relied on during his career fell toward the second end.
As a former baseball player, I’ve seen, heard, and done some of the craziest things to try to ensure a good performance. Whether it’s not washing your jockstrap, never turning left on gameday, or engaging in a certain routine ahead of the game or when stepping into the batter’s box, guys on the diamond are just some of the many athletes who are no strangers to superstitions.
Agent Zero (as Arenas called himself) had a laundry list of superstitions he relied on during his playing days, and I don’t know if I ever encountered anyone who threw so many different approaches at the wall in the hopes of finding some that would stick.
Gilbert Arenas had an impossibly long list of superstitions
I’ve never really heard of a ton of superstitions in basketball until I did some research for this article.
It might sound stupid, but I feel most people associate them with baseball (and, to a lesser extent, golf). I’ve heard of football and hockey players adopting some of them, but I didn’t think they were that widespread in basketball.
Boy was I wrong.
That brings us back to Arenaas, who spent 12 seasons in the NBA (mostly with the Wizards), was selected to the All-Star Game on three occasions, earned a Most Improved Player award, and (at least to my knowledge) became the first person in the league to get hit with a suspension for threatening one of his teammates with a gun in the locker room.
What he credits his good play to, however, might be a little different than most based on the list of the superstitions Gilbert had under his belt.
- Getting a meal at Boston Market before every game
- Driving in the same lanes on the way to the stadium
- Parking his car in the same spot
- Listening to the same music, in the same order
- Getting dressed in the same order
- Tickling Antwon Jamison’s armpit before tip-off in the huddle
- Taking a half-court shot before he is ready to play
- Sticking with only one (and only one!) basketball during the shootaround
- Wearing a size 13 ½ shoe even though he was a 14 because his “feet can’t look too big”
- Not using phones during gameday
My biggest question is how did he even remember all of this stuff? And if he forgets, or messes up, does he already have a bad game? Does he have to re-do the drive to the stadium if a lane was closed?
It seems like a lot of unnecessary pressure to put on yourself before a game. I understand: you want to get into a routine. However, the problem with a routine is once you run into an issue, it ruins the entire thing.
I will say none of those stick out as particularly crazy (except maybe the whole “tickling Antwon Jamison” thing), but when you look at all of them together, it just seems like a tall task (also, no phones? I mean that’s just impossible for me at this point).
However, he didn’t stop there.
Gilbert Arenas also had a few in-game superstitions, like:
- Changing sneakers if he played badly in the first half
- Shooting free throws by spinning the ball around his waist, dribbling three times, and then shooting
- Taking a shower during halftime in his uniform and sneakers if he felt it was called for
- Tossing his jersey into the stands after every game
- Yelling “Hibachi!” before every shot
That list isn’t as extensive as his pregame routine, but it’s still pretty impressive.
I will say that if you think yelling “Hibachi!” before throwing up the rock helps you shoot better, more power to you.