Like almost every team that advances deep into the NBA playoffs after a grueling 82-game regular season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are probably hurting but generally healthy. They may be banged up, but any actual injuries they’ve suffered have at least been manageable.
And just like every other team or group of athletes, the food that they put in their bodies plays a key role in maintaining that health.
Perhaps it’s a stretch to call it a “secret weapon,” but the Thunder’s somewhat surprising run to the Western Conference Finals — they upset the favored San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals — has been fueled in part by the team’s new tradition of eating halal food.
Thunder center Enes Kanter, a 23-year-old Muslim from Turkey, is the man responsible for introducing star teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka to a diet that features lamb, chicken, rice and kebabs as staples and is always prepared according to Islamic law.
Kanter was selected by the Utah Jazz with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. After an up-and-down tenure with the Jazz, Kanter was traded to Oklahoma City in February of 2015, and later that year signed a four-year, $70 million contract to stay with the Thunder.
Kanter is one of two Muslim players on the OKC roster; 24-year-old guard Dion Waiters is practicing as well. The team has a designated prayer room at Chesapeake Energy Arena where it plays its home games. The team’s chefs prepares halal meals for with separate kitchen utensils.
The spread in popularity of halal food among the OKC players began earlier this season when center Steven Adams shared a postgame meal with Kanter and raved about the food. Other teammates soon jumped on the bandwagon.
Soon after, Westbrook and Kanter filmed a video segment for a local media outlet where they cooked a halal meal together.
Now when the Thunder are on the road, team employees are charged with finding Middle Eastern and Turkish restaurant options. When they’re in Oklahoma, players either enjoy their halal food at the team facility or at Kanter’s house.
Meanwhile, Kanter is thriving on the court in OKC’s welcoming environment. He averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds coming off the bench in the regular season, making a career-high 57.6 percent of his shots from the field and a career-high 79.7 percent from the free-throw line. Kanter had two games of 20-plus points in OKC’s first-round playoff series win over the Dallas Mavericks, and his rebounding and defense was key in OKC’s second-round series win over the Spurs.
To find halal restaurants near you, go to Zabihah.com
Categories: HEALTH & FITNESS