Should Basketball Player’s Chew Gum? What the Science Says


Have you ever had that feeling before an important basketball game where you were so nervous that you couldn’t control your thoughts? It affected you so much that you couldn’t relax and your body was so stiff because the thought of failing was flooding your mind. Want an easy way to relieve the tension before a big game? Chew Gum!

Why do basketball players chew gum? There are surprising benefits to chewing gum while playing basketball that have been scientifically proven to improve performance. Chewing gum can actually put a basketball player in rhythm, calm their nerves before a big game, and improves cognitive function which can result in making the right decisions on the court.

So now that I have your attention let’s take a look at some of the research on how it can actually help you play better. I mean if Micheal Jordan chewed gum and became one of the best players ever, then maybe it wasn’t the shoes but the gum itself.



The benefits of chewing gum on the basketball court?

In 2011, researchers at St. Lawrence University suggested that chewing gum before an exam improved test scores. Now the study involved 100 students and only chewed before the exam and not during. This in turn showed that there were benefits to the cognitive function of the brain. Could this help with basketball on the court? I believe so and think it would help in making good decisions on the floor.

Another study suggested that chewing gum increases brain activity in the pre-frontal cortex which results in better cognitive function and shorter reaction times. it also had a positive effect on a player’s movements on the court when it comes to using the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for increasing a player’s speed and vertical jump. P Don’t expect any miracles though, you are not going to be dunking the basketball if you can barely touch the rim. This study was done by the Tokyo Dental College Department of Sports Dentistry.

Now that we know chewing gum can increase brain activity which also improves other bodily functions such as improved blow flow to the brain and heart you can see why this would work on improving one’s performance. The closer you can have your body and brain work in unisense the closer you could get into the perfect zone during a basketball. We know that during a game being in the zone can make the game feel as if it’s easy and you’re able to see the court well. Being in the Zone is also responsible for players putting up 50 point games.

Another study on research gate suggested the following:














So think of chewing gum as an aid to help you with the mental side of the game, helping you adjust to the stresses a basketball game may involve. How you deal with different aspects of the game, can be the difference between scoring 10 points or 20 and winning or losing.

Other Surprising Benefits of Chewing Gum

  • Curb your appetite
  • Improve your memory
  • Reduce Nausea
  • Reduce stress or depressing thoughts
  • Fight Drowsiness
  • Create an aesthetic jawline.
  • Burn Calories

NBA Players chewing gum

In the last 20 years or so chewing gum during a basketball game has slowly started to disappear. Although many players are seen during warm-up chewing gum and blowing bubbles.

Players do this for several reasons, studies have suggested that it lowers stress right before a player is about to play a basketball game. Being mentally prepared is just as important as being physically prepared for athletes. So players early on in their career may have discovered that chewing gum keeps their emotions in check. This is often now apart of their pre-game ritual, as they have found it effective.

Is chewing gum banned in the NBA?

There is no official rule on the website that suggests that chewing gum is banned in the NBA. But it does seem that gum is outlawed during games or it has fazed out altogether in the decade. The last known players that chewed gum during a game while they were still in the NBA were Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen. Both are now retired from the NBA and may have stopped a couple of years prior to their last game.

Many basketball players wear mouth guards now instead of chewing gum, which would be really difficult to chew gum and wear a mouthguard. Instead, they are chewing on their mouth guards. Steph Curry is someone who does this every game and it’s disgusting if you want my opinion on it.

Michael Jordan chewing gum

Michael Jordan was a prolific gum chewer even having his own gum brand like the Big League Chew. Jordan knew the surprising benefits of chewing gum. He was extremely consistent throughout his entire career in the NBA. The mental toughness Jordan brought every game is unlike anything we have seen in an NBA  player. He had players mentally beat before even stepping on the court. Although no one ever believed that the reason why he scored 30 plus points a game every night was because of the chewing gum (it was actually his shoes) you have to wonder how he was so mentally tough and resilient over the competition.

Jordan’s favorite chewing gum was Watermelon flavor Bubalicious, not the Big League Chew that he endorsed. While many joined Jordan in chewing gum as they played basketball, they still weren’t like Mike.

Kobe Bryant stopped chewing gum and chewed on his jersey

Kobe Bryant Chewed gum for a moment in his career and then switched to chewing on his jersey. It was something that his Dad taught him who was also a professional basketball player in Europe. Kobe’sDad told him when his mouth was dry during a game and he felt dehydrated to chew on his jersey and suck on the sweat from the jersey. Pretty disgusting if you ask me, but it became a habit, and often you would see Kobe during games doing this.

A habit for basketball players to chew gum

Before a basketball game, I had routines and pre-game rituals that I would follow. It helped me stay focus and level-headed before a big game. I would stretch while listening to music, which had my favorites songs on a cd I burnt. These songs were ones that motivated me. While listening to it I would focus on the team we were playing and play out what I would do in my head as if I was already playing the game in real life.

Many basketball players have their own routines and rituals that help them become well equipped and mentally prepared when it’s game time. It doesn’t surprise me that many athletes of the past even in other professional sports chew gum before or during a game. There is a number of benefits to chewing.

Some basketball players swear by it and say that they are able to play a whole basketball game because the gum promotes hydration. Some athletes swear it keeps them focused and calms their nerves, others might not even realize the effects and do it because it’s something they always do.

Is chewing gum dangerous?

There really is not much that can go wrong with gum in your mouth during a basketball game. The risk of choking on it is pretty low if you plan to chew and play. The worse thing you could do is chew a very big piece in fear of getting bumped and it getting stuck in your throat, otherwise, it doesn’t seem to be much of a concern or anything to stress over.

There is definitely a possibility of your gum falling out of your mouth as you are playing, most of the time you won’t notice that you are chewing it and therefore might be too relax or have your mouth open to talk to your teammates. It will fly out as I have experienced it, get ready to be embarrassed.

Where did gum come from?

Before there was actually Bubblicious, Wrigley’s Double Mint, or Big League Chew there was actually birch bark. Yup! Birchbark was used for a variety of things throughout history, like glue and also chewing gum. Discovered thousands of years ago in recent findings from the Egyptians to the Northern Europeans, Birchbark didn’t have flavors as we see now in stores, it also kind of looked like….well you be the judge.

Is chewing gum the answer to better performance?

Let’s be real here because you chew gum before or during a basketball game, it will not guarantee you are about to play like Kobe Bryant and score 81 points in a game. You still have to put in the work off the court, and develop the skills necessary to perform. But what gum can do for you is control your nerves, help you make good decisions on the basketball court, and might even help you get in rhythm while staying consistent. Give it a shot see how well it works for you, choose to chew a non-sugar-free gum.

See what works for you, and try different types of bubble gum. 

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