Why Do NBA Players Smoke Cigars? (After Winning)

You may have seen pictures of NBA Legends and All-Time Greats like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokuomnpo, and recently, Stephen Curry smoking cigars during their victories. It has also been a common thing to see among NBA Greats and other players.

So, this begs the question, why do NBA players and even coaches smoke cigars?

Smoking cigars has been an NBA tradition where the NBA Champions will light up their victory cigars and savor the moment of success. It was initially seen with the 1960s Celtics Dynasty Head Coach, Red Auerbach, and soon spread through the league. Soon, it was more popularized in the 1990s by Michael Jordan.

Now, let’s look at the history and the significance of smoking cigars in the NBA culture.

Why do NBA Players Smoke Cigars?

With the known adverse health effects of smoking, it can be quite a mystery for casual sports fans to understand why the most elite athletes in the basketball world are often seen doing them on live TV.

But NBA players often smoke cigars out of a habit, a celebration, or pure love for cigars.

Smoking a cigar or two has been a common habit among NBA players and coaches throughout the game’s history. It traditionally symbolizes success and a winning culture in the NBA that the people who smoke cigars are often photographed after winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Besides the usual celebratory sign that smoking cigar symbolizes, some NBA players do it as a habit or as enthusiasts.

History of Smoking Cigars in the NBA

Smoking cigars after games, especially after a victory, was widely credited to the Legendary Boston Head Coach and Hall of Famer, Red Auerbach, back in the 1960s. In an interview, he said it started as an ‘act of defiance against then-NBA Commissioner Maurice Podoloff and the anti-smoking policy in basketball arenas.

The act of lighting a cigar soon became a ritual, a silent trash talk, and a power-pose against opponents that the game is over and they can’t do anything anymore to win the game. Soon, it became a symbol of champions because the players usually smoke these expensive cigars after winning the NBA Championship.

Why do NBA Players Smoke Cigars After Winning the Championship?

Winning the NBA Championship has a lot of traditions like victory parades, champaign spraying, and of course, cigar smoking. It has been part of the celebration since Red Auerbach made it famous in the 60s. It became even more popular when Michael Jordan started smoking them during his championship runs.

Aside from Jordan, some notable NBA Players and Champions who smoke cigars after winning the chip are Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Giannis Antetokuomnpo, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry.

What Type of Cigars do NBA Players Smoke?

Cigars smoking while on the table

With too many cigars in the market, it is hard to understand the difference between the good stuff and the regular type. Michael Jordan even ridiculed the NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley while playing golf because Barkley didn’t know the distinction.

So, what type of cigars do NBA Players smoke?

NBA Players, especially those who recently won the championship, commonly use limited-edition Cuban cigars, which are quite expensive. But who cares? They won the Finals, and they deserve some celebratory smokes.

How Much do These Cigars Cost?

The average Cuban cigar costs around $7 to $8 per piece. This may sound high for something that you puff for smoke, but an NBA Legend and cigar enthusiast, Michael Jordan, smokes triple the price of the average cigar.

According to sources, Jordan, a billionaire, spends almost $500 on a box filled with 25 pieces of cigars, which is $20 per piece. Similarly, the cigars used in NBA Championship Celebrations cost hundreds of dollars.

NBA Players Who Smoke Cigars

Some NBA players are cigar enthusiasts who take the habit even before winning a game or even in their free time, let alone the championship. Here are some players who love smoking cigars.

1. Michael Jordan
2. Shaquille O’Neal
3. Stephen Curry
4. LeBron James
5. Charles Barkley
6. Giannis Antetokuomnpo
7. Kobe Bryant

What Does it Mean to be a Human Victory Cigar?

Now that you know that a cigar is often used to symbolize victory and celebration from Red Auerbach and Michael Jordan, there is also a personification of this league trend – The Human Victory Cigar.

The NBA is filled with 450 players aiming for their chance to shine on the court. However, only eight to ten players enter the court during a game. So if players who typically never get playing time suddenly appear on the court in the last few minutes of the game, it only means one thing – the game is over.

Some of the most famous victory cigars in NBA History are:

1. Darko Milicic

The former 2003 Top 2 Pick was selected by the Detroit Pistons ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade but turned out to be a bust. Throughout his career with the Detroit Pistons, he would often enter the court only in the game’s closing minutes.

2. Brian Scalabrine

Okay, the White Mamba shouldn’t be here, but if we’re completely honest, Scalabrine mainly spent most of his time seated on the bench, and once his number is called, that would only mean that they are up by twenty points and just waiting for the game to end.

3. Luke Walton

Luke Walton has been a great assistant coach to Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors during their initial championship years. Unfortunately, he would only see playing time later in the game during his NBA career, provided they were winning by a large margin.


The NBA tradition of smoking cigars during victory and championships has been embedded in the league culture for quite a long time, and it won’t disappear soon.

Even the non-smokers take the occasional puffs of smoke as they are drenched in sweat, champaign, and emotion from an NBA Championship.

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