Plenty of professional athletes have superstitions they rely on, and while baseball players probably take the cake when it comes to the sheer amount of habits they subscribe to, plenty of other people follow a similar approach—including former NBA guard Jason Terry.
I recently covered the many superstitions Gilbert Arenas bought into when he was in the league, which was the first time I truly realized just how far some basketball players are willing to go to get into the right mindset. Now, I’m not sure if Terry was able to outdo Agent Zero, but he came pretty close.
Like Arenas, Jason Terry was an incredibly talented ballhandler who averaged 13.4 points and 3.8 assists over the course of a career that spanned 19 NBA seasons. He was a key contributor to the title the Dallas Mavericks secured in 2001, and the man nicknamed “The Jet” was known for being a bit of a pest on the offensive and defensive end of the floor.
You could argue Terry was able to hang around the NBA for as long as he did thanks to the agility and basketball IQ that allowed him to thrive. While that was probably the primary factor, it would be foolish to overlook the very long list of routines and superstitions that he turned to while playing.
Jason Terry had some wild routines and superstitions
It’s a bit hard to keep track of every ritual Terry subscribed to, and (as he said in an interview with The New York Times) he’d be the first person to admit he was a “different dude.”
For example, the night before every NBA game he played (which was more than 1,400 when everything was said and done), Terry would wear a pair of shorts emblazoned with the opposing team’s logo to bed.
On game day, he ate a meal that included some form of chicken a few hours before tipoff. He couldn’t step onto the court without rocking a headband and high socks. If he missed consecutive shots in the first quarter, he went to change his sneakers ahead of the second.
In the aforementioned article, he admitted, “My daughters say I’m a weirdo,” and I can’t say I’d be in a huge rush to disagree.
Of course, I can’t necessarily blame him. It makes sense that you’d want to work little things like that into a regular routine to get into the right mindset, although I also feel like you’re just asking to needlessly throw yourself off your game if that routine ends up getting interrupted at some point.
You could make the argument that approaches like this are an extreme example of commitment to detail, which I think may be true. With that said, I feel like that energy could be better used to narrow in on things like dribbling, shooting, or defense; worrying about what you’re wearing during the game to the point that you change shoes if something’s not going is definitely a little out there.
I admit I am a man sitting at my desk writing about someone who played in the NBA for close to two decades, so who am I to say what works and doesn’t for Terry? I also used to copy Evan Longoria and redo and undo my batting gloves to “reset” before every pitch when I was playing baseball back in the day, so I can’t say I don’t get where he’s coming from.
Terry has admitted that the shorts thing began in college while he was at the University of Arizona. He used to wear his own shorts before the game because he was so excited to play, and over time, he switched to the opponents as a “joke” before deciding to really commit to the bit.
As his career went on, he made subtle changes to his rituals. He ate chicken fingers before every game in college, but as he got older, he made the shift to grilled or rotisserie chicken to maintain the spirit of “chicken before every game.”
After an 0-9 shooting performance in college, he blamed his socks and quickly made it a rule to change his footwear if his shot was off (which is also why he wears extremely high socks; he needed a new pair and went the ones his dad was already wearing).
There were other quirks as well. When he drilled a three-pointer in a game, he would spread out his arms to try to resemble an airplane to give him some more confidence on his next shot, which is how he was dubbed “The Jet” (a nickname he battled Kenny Smith for the right to on Inside the NBA).
The more I look into the athletes who relied on these superstitions, the more I get convinced they might actually be onto something. If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t you can always blame it on the shoes (or the socks).