OPINION: NBA stars are the last people you should trust to critique food


J.R. Smith, pictured during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is among the NBA stars who have voiced their distaste for the food being provided to them in the NBA's "bubble." IDS file photo and Tribune News Service and Audrey Perkins

If you needed any more proof that professional athletes are not the same as you and I, look no further than the so-called NBA bubble. In order to finish its season under an illusion of safety, the league has sequestered 22 of its teams on Disney World’s campus in Orlando, Florida. Placing society’s elite in its own miniature city during a pandemic sounds like the prologue to a dystopian novel, but I’m happy to sit back and watch with the rest of the forsaken peasantry. 

However, the most prominent disparity between star and fan was revealed by the players’ criticisms of their dining options. The cuisine itself is fairly standard, if not slightly reminiscent of an extravagant sack lunch. With an all-inclusive menu, the only real flaw in the bubble’s gastronomy is its unfortunate packaging. 

There’s nothing less appetizing than a styrofoam box. Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot could become spokespeople for styrofoam, and it would still be the most sexless, unappealing substance in which to house a meal. You could serve me an impeccably grilled cut of Wagyu beef, but if it comes in something that squeaks whenever it moves, I’d be equally inclined to choke down Kid Cuisine.

Still, the NBA’s culinary offerings are hardly worthy of the scorn they have received. Houston Rockets forward Ben McLemore shared a video in which he disdainfully remarks, “Not today,” at a neglected steak as if it were a revolting monstrosity like a hairy spider or the Rockets’ 27 consecutive missed 3-pointers in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

For Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, the issue was not quality, but rather quantity. With 280 pounds of nearly pure muscle hanging off a 7-foot frame, he probably burns more calories sneezing than I do in an entire day.

Although I can’t quite relate to Embiid’s physical needs, I can appreciate his concerns about not having enough energy to compete this year. Unlike Olive Garden’s pasta bowls, the 76ers recent playoff runs have been far from never-ending.

That being said, the harshest judge has been recent Los Angeles Lakers signee J.R. Smith, who already has a complex past with food. In 2018, he earned a one-game suspension for tossing soup in the face of then-Cavaliers assistant coach Damon Jones.

Smith recently voiced displeasure with his hotel’s less healthy snacks, insisting he and his colleagues, like sports cars, require the best fuel. Suddenly, his costly decision to drain out the clock in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals because he mistakenly thought his team was winning makes perfect sense. Maybe Smith merely wanted to channel his inner Ferrari by huffing high-octane unleaded gasoline shortly beforehand.

Amid all this negativity, Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard provided a glimpse of positivity when he exuberantly tweeted, “Mickey Mouse Waffles!!” in capital letters along with a picture of two fluffy, golden brown recreations of Disney’s beloved mascot. 

Unfortunately, even Leonard’s testimony might not be completely trustworthy given that he recently crowned himself “King of the Bubble” after downing a 12-ounce Coors Light in 2.5 seconds. Who’s to say whether Leonard was actually excited about the waffles’ flavor or if he was just glad to have a soft, absorbent beer sponge in his stomach the next time he has to bravely defend his throne? 

Everybody has the right to share their opinions on what they eat, but perhaps people who require 6,000 calories of it daily or regularly shell out thousands of dollars on wine aren’t the most reliable reviewers.

Regardless, I’ll voraciously devour almost any sports-related content. Maybe I’m not too different from Smith. Even though I don’t find the junk put before me particularly enticing, it’s that or nothing, so I suppose we’ll both be eating garbage for a while.

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