Playing a game professionally can be stressful. For some athletes, relying on their knowledge of the game and years of training isn’t enough to relieve the stresses of game day. No, some athletes rely on good ole’ superstition to give them a game day confidence boost.
Superstition isn’t just for the unlucky. Some of the most superstitious athletes ever are also some of the greatest athletes ever. Athletic god, Michael Jordan, and goddess, Serena Williams, are among the athletes who have relied on superstitious rituals to advance their game. Michael liked to wear his college uniform shorts under his pro trunks and Serena wears the same socks every match if she’s on a winning streak.
Regardless of the ritual, or rituals, it’s no secret that if a person believes they will perform (or play) better, they probably will. But all logic stops there. The athletes with the strangest game day rituals give a whole new meaning to the word extreme.
8 Jason Terry
NBA star and Seattle native, Jason Terry, has so many pre-game rituals, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Terry’s most well known ritual – wearing opposing teams’ uniform shorts - began in college, when he was preparing to play in the 1997 NCAA championship game. The night before the championship game, Terry was so pumped that he decided to wear his Wildcats uniform to bed. Over time, he swapped his uniform trunks for the opposing team’s shorts. Now, Terry must go to bed wearing the opposing team’s uniform shorts, even if it means losing sleep over tracking down a pair of trunks.
Wearing opposing teams’ shorts isn't Terry’s only pre-game ritual, though. A few hours prior to a game, he must eat a meal with chicken as the main dish. He never leaves the locker room without a headband and socks, lots of socks. Terry is known for wearing up to five pairs of socks at a time. Oh, and if he’s having a bad first quarter, he insists on changing his shoes. According to the New York Times, Terry's hometown saying is, “Blame it on the rain.” So, if his game isn't going well, Terry has to blame it on something – his sneakers.
7 Michael Jordan
Speaking of shorts, another basketball player known for a superstition involving shorts is the great Michael Jordan. During his professional basketball career, Jordan wore a pair of his alma mater’s (University of North Carolina) uniform trunks under his Chicago Bulls shorts. After winning the NCAA championship in the early 80’s, Jordan believed his blue Tar Heels shorts were lucky and obviously, didn't want to tempt the basketball gods. He even started wearing longer shorts to hide his school trunks underneath. Jordan’s game day ritual is credited with changing the length of all pro basketball players’ shorts, which were much shorter before Jordan’s time.
6 Mike Bibby
There must have been something in the water at the University of Arizona. Wildcat alumni and teammate of Jason Terry, Mike Bibby, is also known for performing strange game day rituals. To chase the nerves away before a game, Bibby would bite and pick at his fingernails, excessively. But, that’s not where Bibby’s ritual gets strange. His nail biting habit eventually became a nail clipping habit. While sitting on the bench during games, he would compulsively clip his fingernails. Bibby’s fingernail clipping habit became so obsessive, he would have a trainer hand him a pair of nail clippers during timeouts.
5 Moises Alou
Batting gloves, which help absorb shock and prevent blisters, are an essential tool for baseball players - well, most ball players. There are a few players who bat sans gloves; most notably, Moises Alou. Alou, one of the best outfielders of his time, chose to bat without gloves and instead, protected his hands by another method. During the entire baseball season, Alou would pee on his hands - to toughen them up, or so he believed. In fact, one of urine’s main components, urea, is a skin conditioner.
4 Lyoto Machida
Some athletes pee on themselves, others drink their urine. Lyoto Machida, Ultimate Fighting Championship contender, drinks his own urine every morning, regardless of whether or not he’s training for a fight. Machida believes urine is a natural medicine that helps flush the body of toxins - a treatment known as 'urine therapy'. Supposedly, Machida’s father, Yoshizo Machida, prompted him to start drinking his own urine after he could not get rid of a persistent cough. Machida took his father’s advice and the cough went away. He’s been chugging his own pee ever since.
3 Turk Wendell
There’s a reason Turk Wendell, Major League Baseball pitcher, was called eccentric. Wendell has so many game day rituals and superstitions that he was named the most superstitious athlete of all time by Men’s Fitness magazine.
So, what were Wendell’s eccentricities? Let’s start with Wendell’s game day rituals. Wendell had to leap over the foul line whenever he entered or exited the field. Instead of throwing the ball to the pitcher, as most umpires do, Wendell insisted the umpire roll the ball to him. When his catcher stood, he crouched. Supposedly, Wendell would also pick up the rosin bag and throw it down after each batter went up to the plate.
Now, let’s discuss Wendell’s game day inning habits. Innings were a busy time for Wendell. At the start of each new inning, Wendell would draw three crosses in the pitcher’s mound dirt. When he began a new inning, he would pop four pieces of black licorice in his mouth to chew on, jump over the foul line, and make his way to the mound. When he got to the mound, he would turn and wave to the center fielder and couldn't start playing until the center fielder waved back. When he was done with an inning, he would rush back to the dugout (not forgetting to leap over the foul line) and brush his teeth.
Wendell’s eccentric habits didn’t stop at game day, either. Wendell had a thing for the number nine. In honor of Charlie Sheen’s Major League character, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, he wore 99 on his jersey and in 2000, insisted the New York Mets make his contract for $9,999,999.99.
2 Serena Williams
Reportedly, Serena Williams, who is currently the number one ranked women’s singles tennis player, has admitted her game day rituals are ridiculous. Ridiculous or not, Williams must use the same shower and same shower sandals as she previously did on game day. She must also tie her shoelaces exactly the same way every match. Before her first serve, Williams bounces the ball five times and on her second serve, she bounces the tennis ball twice. If she’s winning, which she does a lot of the time, she wears the same socks every match – unwashed.
1 Les Miles
Les Miles may not be an athlete, but the Louisiana State University head coach deserves a spot on the list of strange game day habits. Miles didn’t receive the nickname, “The Mad Hatter,” for nothing. Miles supposedly has an affinity for grass, and it’s not the kind of grass you’re thinking of. Miles likes football field grass and eats a small patch of turf before every game. Reportedly, Miles says chomping on a little grass humbles him, and reminds him that he’s a part of the field and the game.
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