Most of us never have to worry about how to put more calories into our bodies; there's always another carnitas taco or crème brûlée right around the corner. But if you’re a professional athlete who measures more than seven feet tall — like, say, Yao Ming — your frame still looks lanky even when you’re packing 310 pounds, and you've got to keep up appearances. The need for copious nourishment — along with the fact that brutal travel schedules give NBA players like LeBron James and Kevin Garnett the chance to sample lots of restaurant meals on the road — has turned many of these sports stars into amateur food experts… of a sort, at least. (Photo courtesy: Imagine China Corbis)
What do NBA players like Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, and Tony Parker look for in a restaurant? These dudes aren’t Yelp-ing locavores sniffing out some hot new under-the-radar Indian-Vietnamese-barbecue fusion joint serving five-dollar shrimp tikka-smoked pork skin summer rolls. Of course, if a local restaurant is trendy or newsy enough, a food-interested NBA player has likely heard of it.
A player’s age also dictates what he likes: Veterans are likely to be the more adventuresome bunch as opposed to rookies, the majority of whom still opt for fast food. Some of the league favorites right now are: Sotto Sotto in Toronto; 220 in Detroit; Prime 112 in Miami Beach; Katana in West Hollywood (Tony Battie loves the chicken meatball yakitori); Crustacean in Beverly Hills; Phillippe Chow in New York; 10 Arts in the Philadelphia Ritz Carlton; and Murray's in Minneapolis.
In general, though, NBAers tend to stick to the tried-and-true upscale chains, the places where they already know what they like (hint: it’s usually steak) and where they can rely on the food to be, if not exactly inspired, then consistently tasty. Why chains? We asked Henry Abbott, founder and editor of TrueHoop.com, ESPN’s NBA blog. “One," he says, "the portions are huge; two, these places have alcohol and this is the first stop in a night out clubbing. Also, places like this count socially as going out to a nice restaurant without making anyone in a player’s entourage uncomfortable, unlike, say, the French restaurant du jour… and there’s plenty of room for their long legs.”
Just in time for the NBA playoffs, here are the places where some of your favorite hoops stars eat.