Why Do Basketball Players Chew Gum?

Basketball is a game that requires athletes to make quick decisions on the fly.

Whether it’s dribbling the ball through a teammate’s legs or deciding whether to pass the ball to an open player in space or take it for yourself, athletes are constantly weighing options to decide what’s best to do next.

In order to make these quick decisions, many athletes like to use chewing gum before they play.

Basketball players chew gum because this can help them stay focused and alert during games, as well as keep their mouths from drying out too much so they don’t get tired more easily. Also, gum chewing also helps to calm a basketball player’s nerves down before important games.

But exactly how does this work and why would anyone want to do such a thing?

Read on to find out!

Reasons why basketball players chew gum during games

Here are some of the top reasons why basketball players chew gum during games.

1. Chewing gum helps players remain calm and relaxed

why basketball players chew gum - calmness and relaxation

Many people who have never tried it may be surprised at just how calming chewing gum can actually be.

In fact, there are several different types of gum that contain ingredients designed specifically to reduce anxiety levels.

Some even claim to improve memory while others say they’re good to relieve headaches and stress.

Whatever your specific needs are, you’ll find something here that will definitely help you relax.

If you’ve ever watched a professional athlete (or any athlete) perform live, you know that they often look incredibly nervous beforehand.

They might sweat profusely, fidget nervously, or pace around restlessly.

When it comes time for them to go on stage and perform, however, all of those nerves seem to disappear.

The reason why this happens has everything to do with the way our brains process information when we’re under pressure.

When faced with stressful situations, our brain releases a hormone called cortisol which triggers us to become overly anxious and worried about things.

One of the ways this hormone affects us is by causing our blood vessels to constrict, leading to poor circulation and increased heart rate.

As a result, our bodies are less able to deliver enough oxygen and nutrients throughout our entire body.

To combat this, athletes sometimes resort to chewing gum because they know it works to increase blood flow to the brain and muscles, which reduces anxiety and calms down their racing minds.

2. It improves cognitive function which helps with decision making

why basketball players chew gum - improved cognitive function

Another benefit of chewing gum is that it increases mental performance, including concentration, focus, and short-term memory.

These effects happen because chewing gum stimulates the release of saliva into your mouth, triggering the production of endorphins that cause relaxation and pain relief.

Research also shows that chewing gum boosts your ability to concentrate and think clearly.

While most people who chew gum regularly tend to experience positive results, not everyone experiences the same effect.

Those who aren’t sensitive to the chemicals found in chewing gum could feel none of its benefits.

If you want to test if you’d enjoy getting the full boost from chewing gum, try taking a few pieces right before performing a difficult task like playing in a tournament or speaking in front of a large crowd.

You should then compare your performance afterward to see if it was better than usual.

Those who consistently experience success with chewing gum tend to notice that it provides a subtle but noticeable mental edge over those who don’t use it.

For example, I noticed my shooting percentage went up dramatically after using gum for the first time last year.

3. Chewing gum burns calories

why basketball players chew gum - burning calories

Another benefit of basketball players chewing gum is that it burns extra calories, since it takes longer to digest compared to other foods.

According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, chewing gum burns about 11 calories per hour.

While this doesn’t necessarily impact weight gain, it does contribute to building muscle mass.

The bonus of burning extra calories is that it allows you to eat slightly larger meals without feeling stuffed afterwards.

So, if you’re trying to lose weight, you can always choose to eat fewer calories overall while still enjoying the energy boost from chewing gum.

And chewing gum isn’t only beneficial for athletes.

People with allergies, asthma, diabetes, high cholesterol, and low blood sugar can also benefit from chewing gum.

People with sleep apnea can also benefit from chewing gum because it prevents airway collapse. Chewing gum can also prevent dental problems caused by clenching teeth due to fear or anxiety.

4. It keeps the mouth moist

why basketball players chew gum - it keeps the mouth moist

One other reason why basketball players often chew gum during games is that it keeps their mouths moist.

Athletes generally start chewing gum when they’re thirsty so that they won’t dry out their lips and tongues as much.

They usually continue to chew it until they reach a point where their mouth feels numb.

Since it takes longer for food to break down when you’re eating while drinking water, chewing gum can provide a nice balance between hydration and hunger.

This is especially helpful for athletes who need to sustain themselves for long periods of time without food.

Whether you’re a pro athlete looking to maintain peak athletic condition or someone who simply wants to avoid choking on your own spit, chewing gum can help you accomplish both goals.

And no matter what type of gum you prefer, you’ll probably find multiple flavors that appeal to your taste buds.

5. It fights sleepiness and drowsiness

Chewing gum can help keep basketball players awake on the court.

Believe it or not, these athletes go through the most strenuous of training programs and some of them don’t get enough sleep before games.

This leads to them feeling tired and drowsy on the court.

But chewing gum can help with this problem, as its properties can help fight sleepiness and battle those midday yawns.

6. As part of habit

Some basketballers simply got into the habit of chewing gum during competitive matches and haven’t stopped ever since they started!

We all know that it takes between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit, and once that sticks, almost the same amount of time is needed to kick that habit too.

Ultimately, when basketballers get used to chewing gum, they’re very likely to simply carry on doing so.

Is chewing gum while playing basketball good?

From the information provided above with scientific backing, it’s clear to see that chewing gum can have a number of positive benefits for basketball players.

So, yes!

Chewing gum is good for basketball players as it’s able to boost their overall athletic performance in a number of different ways, which have already been outlined throughout the post.

Although it can have a few oral side effects, such as:

Which NBA basketballers are famous for chewing gum as they play?

This article wouldn’t be complete without a real-world look at some of the athletes who’ve held this habit over the span of their professional careers.

Let’s get down to it!

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is regarded as arguably the greatest basketballer to ever grace the game, and he was well known for chewing gum on the court.

He suggested that it made him more relaxed whenever he played, which is quite fair.

Here’s an insightful video that talks more about his chewing habit:

Kobe Bryant

This is another legend of the game.

Bryant used to chew gum while playing basketball, and it arguably made him a more aggressive player on the court.

Although later on in his career, Kobe stopped chewing gum because it supposedly made his mouth dry up.

In fact, his father even suggested to him to chew on his jersey instead!

Closing thoughts

So now you know why basketball players like to chew gum during games. But did you also learn anything new today?

If you did, we’re glad!

You may also want to consider reading through some of our other posts on the blog, like:

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.