Sports science has reached new heights over the past two decades, with players now having personalized training and diet plans. These advancements dramatically changed the game, with players eating specific foods in carefully measured amounts to optimize performance. But that wasn’t always the case, especially in the NBA.
In the 80s and 90s, gamers mostly ate what normal people ate, sometimes in larger amounts. Considering the amount of work athletes put in physically, it’s not hard to see why they might need to eat more than most people. And that meant it wasn’t uncommon for players to head into town for burgers, pasta and pizza before a game, everyone knows the story of Michael Jordan’s pizza, after all.
And drinking was also part of the culture, even during the season. While today’s players still party and drink from time to time, in the 90s some had it before games. The best example of this comes from the players on the best team of the 90s. Steve Kerr and Toni Kukoc came to the Bulls in 1993 and Kerr told the story of Kukoc’s legendary pre-game meal on the show “NBA TV’s Open Court”.
“But I’ll tell you a quick story about Toni Kukoc when he came to the NBA. In the first game of the season, I asked him if he wanted to go get a bite to eat. It’s about three in the morning In the afternoon, four hours before the game, he orders this feast – salad, entrée, huge plate of pasta, chicken, glass of red wine, a dessert like tiramisu and then follows it up with an espresso.
“I’m like, ‘Toni, this is your pregame meal,'” Kerr recalled. “He [Kukoc] go, ‘In Europe, we eat a lot, we drink a little wine, we have an espresso, we go back to the hotel, we have a big shit and then we leave [play].”
While that sounds more than a little intense, it’s also a testament to the players of that era who were able to perform at an incredibly high level despite such a diet. Kukoc became a 3-time NBA champion and played 13 seasons in the NBA, so that seems hard to believe. Looks like eating this way worked out pretty well for him.