Why Do Basketball Players Chew Gum? (5 Reasons)

Basketball players have all kinds of rituals during games.  

They have weird superstitions, lucky routines, and pre-game habits that seem strange to people who don’t play basketball. Chewing gum is one of those habits.

So, why do basketball players chew gum?

Basketball players chew gum primarily to calm their nerves, focus, and prevent dry mouth. It has also become a common practice that is passed on from generation to generation.

But there’s more to it than this. Let’s dig into it. 

Why do basketball players chew gum?

Some people think that basketball players chew gum to look cool. Others think that they do it out of habit.

So, what’s really the reason?

Turns out, there could be different reasons for it. What’s surprising is that some players may not even know the benefits it can give!

That said, here are the reasons:

1. To calm their nerves

If you’ve ever chewed gum while in a high-stress situation, then you know that feeling. That feeling where you seemingly calm down after chewing for some time.

Turns out, lots of research has been done which proves that chewing gums do indeed reduce stress.

So, this is why you’ll see a lot of basketball players chewing gum at games. There’s even a huge chance that they don’t know that chewing gums scientifically reduce stress – they just feel it.

Plus, having something to do while you’re being watched by thousands of fans may help take your nervousness away. Even if it’s as simple as chewing gum, it keeps your attention on chewing rather than focusing on the crowd which can stress you even more.

2. It improves alertness and reaction time

Basketball is a fast-paced sport that requires 100% focus and attention every second.

A shot clock only lasts for 24 seconds but a team may score quicker than that.

So, it’s important that all players are focused all the time since one second of delay can be a chance for the enemy to score.

For instance, if you’re even a step delayed in getting in front of your man on defense, they can blow by you easily.

If you didn’t know, chewing gum improves alertness and reaction time. Although not a significant amount, it just helps players to keep focus. Even an extra second can be a game-changer.

3. To keep their mouth hydrated

Nothing’s worst than playing basketball with a dry mouth. That uncomfortable feeling may even affect your game!

Although you can drink some water here and there to keep hydrated, it’s not like you can drink all the time.

That’s why chewing gum can help create extra saliva so that your mouth doesn’t dry up. Because the last thing you want is to gasp for water while you’re playing.

4. It improves their breath

Another great benefit of chewing gum while playing games is that they don’t allow you to get bad breath.

Every player knows that playing basketball sometimes leads to stinky breath. That’s because you’re panting for breath all the time running up and down the court.

The solution is just to chew gum. Now, you don’t need to worry about your breath as you talk to your teammates.

5. Because it’s a common practice

Basketball has been around since 1891 so it’s natural that all sorts of traditions have been made.

For example, players touch hands after free throws, or players may celebrate after a nice play.

Chewing gum is just one of the common practices that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest ever by many, chewed gum a lot of times when he played. In fact, it’s one of his signature traditions.

Kobe Bryant also did the same since he idolized and copied his game from Jordan. After a while, even high school players are chewing gum. Before you know it, it has become a part of the starter pack for basketball players.

Why are there fewer basketball players chewing gum today?

Two words – mouth guards.

The rise of mouthguards is the main reason why you don’t see a lot of professional players chewing gum today.

Before the mouthguard era, chewing gum became the norm for players as popularized by Jordan and the Bulls in the 90s.

But because leagues like the NBA highly encourage players to wear mouthguards, they’re not able to chew gum anymore.

Instead, they chew their mouthguards now. Stephen Curry has made this into a habit so much so that it’s one of his signature practices.

Modern mouthguards are equipped with different flavors that make the chewing experience incredible. So, they serve a dual purpose which is to protect the athlete’s teeth and to act as gum.

Although that’s the case, you might still see some players chew gum during warm-ups, practice, or when they’re just walking about.

Should You Go for A Gum or Mouth Guard?

If you’re a basketball player, this can be a legitimate question to ponder.

But you must remember that professional players are using mouthguards for a reason – to protect their teeth.

So, if you want to do the same, there’s nothing to think about. Mouth guards cost anywhere from $5-$100 depending on the brand and type. Flavored mouthguards are more expensive, but they can be a substitute for gum.

But if you don’t have the budget for a mouthguard, chewing gum can still provide some benefits just not protection.

Final Thoughts

Chewing gums are popular for a lot of athletes including basketball. But you’ll see fewer professional players chewing gum now thanks to mouthguards.

Still, chewing gums do have benefits and can make you instantly look cooler on the court.

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