How NBA players choose their room service meals

carmelo anthony
Photo: Tim Nwachukwu / Staff (Getty Images)
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Professional basketball players spend half the season on the road, which means choosing dinner at a restaurant would normally be a nightly occurrence. Once the pandemic started, teams were allowed to reserve spaces at a specific group of restaurants, typically steakhouses, that could meet the safety standards the NBA had approved.

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As COVID-19 cases surged, the NBA decided to scale that back, and barred players from leaving their rooms completely. Room service became the default method of ordering food, as it was the most convenient, though delivery apps are also an option. The Ringer has taken a look into how these players peruse room service menus and what these athletes have learned from their considerable experience ordering food on the road.

As veteran travelers, NBA players even know the deep nuances of every city’s food scene, too. “It’s well known throughout the league that the Memphis room service has always been a step below some of the other hotels,” says Robin Lopez of the Washington Wizards. “But that’s OK, because at least pre-COVID, you made up for it by having great barbecue options all over.”

Players already have their own preferences: some eat to enjoy themselves, others stick to specific diets for particular needs. The Ringer walked through a room service menu in a hotel where NBA players stay, and got the players’ opinions on a few different menu items. Here are Carmelo Anthony’s thoughts on salad, for example:

I would usually do a Caesar salad starter. I’m not a big carb guy at all. I try to eat clean and things like that. They be on me about eating carbs, but I’m a seafood guy—a fish guy, a salmon guy. So a lot of times, my dinner is seared salmon with a Caesar salad and a side. Or sometimes I’ll do a burger. I’ll do pasta every once in a while, maybe for a lunch or something like that if you can get in early enough.

Seafood, in fact, is a regular part of many players’ diets. And Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks has some specific opinions about when and where to order it:

First, give me a setting. Where is this menu? Where are we? It’s kind of different to eat fish in certain places. So it just depends. Like, I’m a big sushi guy. Depending on where I am, I probably wouldn’t get sushi. I try not to have it before games or things like that, but I’m definitely a big sushi guy. Just depending on where I am—like, I probably wouldn’t have sushi in Utah or Memphis or Oklahoma City.

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And, just for good measure, here are Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr.’s highly relatable thoughts about desserts.

During the season I try to stay away from sweets as much as I can. I’m a big sweets guy—an apple cobbler kind of guy. I like cinnamon apples, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, SweeTARTS. You go down the line. Sugar is sugar for me. I’ll eat anything that is probably bad for you. But I’ve done a better job as I’ve gotten older of being able to basically cut it off and do a good job of holding off on it. If I can stay away from it during the season—which I do a pretty good job of—I’ll go and have a couple weeks in the summertime where I’ll kinda go all out.

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The athletes have lots of opinions on their favorite foods, so it’s really pretty fun to see what they all have to say. It’s particularly interesting to me because a lot of times, these NBA players think about picking between food that’s tailored for their physical needs, versus foods that are room service staples, like sandwiches or snacks. Give the piece a look, and even though most of us aren’t traveling much, you can live vicariously through what they dine on every day.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

First, give me a setting. Where is this menu? Where are we? It’s kind of different to eat fish in certain places. So it just depends. Like, I’m a big sushi guy. Depending on where I am, I probably wouldn’t get sushi. I try not to have it before games or things like that, but I’m definitely a big sushi guy. Just depending on where I am—like, I probably wouldn’t have sushi in Utah or Memphis or Oklahoma City.

I feel this, Jalen Brunson!  I, too, typically have a “I’m probably not ordering sushi in a landlocked state” rule, unless it’s like (specifically) Vegas -- where I assume you can get most things in an actual good restaurant in a casino on the Strip.