The Most Superstitious Professional Athletes

Sports | 4/12/21

Whether they want to admit it or not, most people are superstitious to a certain degree, at least about some things. Whether it’s not walking under a ladder or how they tie their shoes, it’s not unusual for people to have minor quirks to put their superstitions at rest. This is no different for professional athletes who are under an incredible amount of pressure to perform at all times. So, many of them have some small rituals to help them relax, and these are the strangest ones.

Nomar Garciaparra Had A Whole Process Before The First Pitch

Picture of Nomar Garciaparra
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Nomar Garciaparra was clearly a superstitious person, as the All-Star shortstop had a number of rituals he would perform before batting in a game. First, he would adjust the velcro on his gloves in a noticeable rhythm.

Then, he would windmill the bat around while alternately tapping his toes. He was also known to kiss his bat before going to the on-deck circle and climb the stairs of the dugout the same way every time. Supposedly, he would also throw a fit if anyone ever touched his hat.

Serena Williams Is Particular About Her Tournament Socks

Serena staring into the camera
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s safe to say that most people would agree that wearing socks two times in a row is all-around gross, even if you aren’t doing any rigorous activity. However, when it comes to playing in tournaments, championship tennis player Serena Williams doesn’t care about the feeling or if people think she’s gross.

Williams is known only to wear one pair of socks during an entire tournament. That’s a lot of running around in one pair of socks! But hey, it works!

Caron Butler Was Fueled By Mountain Dew

Caron Butler in suit grinning
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Basketball player Caron Butler wasn’t just a fan of Mountain Dew, but it was a big part of his basketball career. Before going pro, when he played for UConn, he would drink half of a two-liter of the soda before tip-off and the second half during halftime.

This continued into his years in the NBA, constantly drinking the stuff during games until the Washington Wizards and the National Basketball Association banned him from drinking it on the court. He eventually kicked the habit in 2009.

Pelle Lindbergh Was A Very Particular Goaltender

Picture of Pelle Lindbergh
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images
Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

Although Pepe Lindbergh was only in the NHL for five years, he certainly left his mark, becoming the first European player to ever win a Vezina Trophy. However, he was also known for other things such as bringing water onto the ice and wearing a white mask, but those weren’t his quirks.

Because he was superstitious, he would always wear the same orange shirt under his hockey pads. Also, he would always drink the Swedish beer Pripps between periods, which had to be served by the same assistant coach with two ice cubes.

Jerry Tarkanian Liked His Wet Towels

Picture of Jerry Tarkanian
Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT/Getty Images
Tim Defrisco/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

A renowned NCAA Men’s Basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian’s mouth would unsurprisingly go dry during high-intensity games. Then, during one game in southern California, he grew tired of going to get water and decided to soak a towel in water and chew on it instead to keep his mouth from getting dry.

Supposedly, ever since that game, he chewed on a towel out of superstition. Considering the success he had in his career, maybe he was onto something.

Steve Kline Never Washed His Hat

Kline spitting seeds at the camera
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

A left-handed pitcher, Steve Kline was a specialist reliever in Major League Baseball for many years. Besides his skill, something else that fans couldn’t help but notice was his sweat-stained hats.

His hats appeared so dirty because they were, as he would never wash a hat for an entire season. When playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, his dirty hats became such a topic of discussion that one game, the first 5,000 people to enter the stadium received their own “dirty” hat.

Mike Bibby Clips His Fingernails When Not Playing

Picture of Mike Bibby
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

For some time during his NBA career, Mike Bibby had a serious problem when it came to chewing on his fingernails. When he wasn’t on the court, he could usually be seen gnawing on his fingernails on the bench.

It became so bad that he eventually had to switch to nail clippers. Soon after making the transition, whenever he would sit on the bench during a game, someone would hand him a pair of nail clippers, and he would get to work.

Les Miles Munches On Grass

Picture of Les Miles
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Les Miles is a Division 1 college football coach and is regarded as one of the more animated college football coaches. For example, his pregame rituals differ from most other coaches, as he prefers to chew on some of the grass from the field during warm-up.

Supposedly this “humbles him as a man,” and “it lets him know that he’s part of the field and part of the game.” Unsurprisingly, he claims that whatever team he’s coaching for, their grass tastes the best.

Jason Terry Wears His Opponents Shorts The Night Before A Game

Picture of Jason Terry
Streeter Lecka/BIG3/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/BIG3/Getty Images

Strangely, NBA player Jason Terry owns a pair of shorts from each of the NBA teams. Why does he have all of these shorts? Well, he wears the shorts of the team he is playing against the next day each night when he goes to bed.

Why he does this, nobody knows, but a good guess would be that he wants to get to know his opponent as best as possible before they face off.

Brian Urlacher Has A Relaxed Pre-Game Routine

Picture of Brian Urlacher
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Before Super Bowl XLI, Brian Urlacher, a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Bears, admitted to his rather surprising routine before each game. He claims that he takes one hour to watch his favorite fishing show in the morning before going to the stadium.

Once there, he spends some time listening to music. Then, right before the game, he will treat himself to exactly two chocolate chip cookies. By that time, he’s ready to play.

Detroit Red Wings Fan And Their Octopuses

Picture of Red Wings
Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images
Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Back during a Red Wings playoff game in 1952, a bold fan threw an octopus onto the ice, which was supposed to represent the eight wins that they would need to win the Stanley Cup.

To everyone’s disbelief, the Red Wings went on to sweep the playoffs. Because of their success, “The Legend of the Octopus” is now a Red Wings tradition, with some poor dead octopuses being thrown onto the ice as a sign of good luck.

Richie Ashburn Would Sleep With His Bats

Picture of Richie Ashburn
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Whenever Richie Ashburn was having a hot streak when at-bat, he would always make sure to take the same bat home with him and sleep with it in his bed.

He claims that he did this to make sure that the bat wasn’t accidentally mixed up with the rest of the other ones by the clubhouse attendants. While working as a commentator for the Phillies after retiring, he would often joke that he “slept with a lot of old bats.”

Kevin Rhomberg Was A “Toucher”

Picture of Kevin Rhomberg
Pinterest
Pinterest

According to pitcher Rich Mahler, retired major league baseball player Kevin Rhomberg was one of the most superstitious players that he ever met. Apparently, if anyone ever touched him, Rhomberg would have to touch them back no matter the situation.

On top of that, Rhomberg refused to ever turn right on a baseball diamond because you are supposed to run left. He would go out of his way to make sure he didn’t do this, even if it took more time and energy.

Larry Walker And The Number Three

Picture of Larry Walker
Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

Larry Walker was one of the best MLB players of the 1990s, being named National League MVP in 1997 and being elected to play in five all-star games. However, to say that he liked the number 3 is an understatement.

He wore the number 33 for his entire career, made sure his phone number had as many 3’s as possible, and would only get out of bed 33 minutes after the hour. To top it all off, he was married on November 3rd at 3:33 pm.

John Henderson Liked To Be Smacked Before A Game

Picture of John Henderson
Getty Images
Getty Images

John Henderson was a 6’7″, 350 pound-defensive tackle for the Jaguars that had an interesting ritual before each game. To make sure he was in the right headspace, he would have the assistant coach slap him across the face as hard as he could to psych him up.

We figure that anyone would slap someone that bg across the face if they asked them to. We just wouldn’t want to be on the other team right after Henderson got his pre-game slap.

Mini Minoso Showered In His Uniform

Picture of Minnie Minoso
Getty Images/Getty Images
Getty Images/Getty Images

Mini Minoso was an MLB player for the White Sox back in the 1950s. After a game in which he didn’t hit a single ball, he wore his uniform during his post-game shower to supposedly wash away from the “stink” of the game he just played.

The next day, he had three hits. This was enough to convince the rest of his teammates, who all started showering with their uniforms on, to play better the next game.

Hands Off Ed Belfour’s Equipment

Picture of Ed Belfour
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When you play on a professional sports team with someone, you’re practically family. You eat, practice, sleep, play, travel, basically do everything together. Regardless, that didn’t stop the ice hockey goaltender from being protective of his gear, even when it came to his teammates.

Apparently, he would give an announcement to the rest of the players each season that was short and sweet with him warning, “If you touch my stuff, I’ll kill you.” If they didn’t want goals scored, they better have listened.

Wade Boggs Always Ate Chicken

Picture of Wade Boggs
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Wade Boggs is a legend in his own right, and although he is known for his ability to drink a vast amount of beer, he also had a few gameday rituals that he upheld. He woke up at the same time every day, had batting practice at exactly 5:17 pm, and would always write the Hebrew word “Chai” in the batter’s box whenever he was at-bat.

Finally, he always made sure to eat chicken the night before a game. Supposedly, his wife had over 40 chicken recipes that she used each season.

Turk Wendell Was Consistent In His Rituals

Picture of Turk Wendell
Matthew Stockman /Allsport/Getty Images
Matthew Stockman /Allsport/Getty Images

Retired pitcher Turk Wendell had a number of superstitions that he believed helped him play to the best of his abilities. One of these was always wearing a necklace during games out of teeth and other parts from animals that he had hunted.

He would also draw three crosses on the pitching mound and was adamant that all of his contracts ended in the same number of his jersey, which was 99. To top it all off, he would eat four pieces of licorice each game that he pitched and brush his teeth between innings.

Michael Jordan’s Superstition Sparked A Trend

Picture of Michael Jordan
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Back when Michael Jordan first joined the National Basketball Association in 1984, he was known for wearing shorts that were longer than the other players. His reason for doing this was that he liked to wear his shorts from North Carolina under his Bull’s shorts for some good luck.

Although Jordan had a reason for his long shorts, it wasn’t long until other league players began wearing longer shorts. It looks like everyone wanted to be like Mike!