The casual NBA fan knows Milwaukee Bucks P.J. Tucker for his unending collection of rare sneakers, his style and flashy, designer outfits he arrives to the arena in. Around the league, the veteran forward is one of those versatile players that every coach wants on their roster.
Last season, while with the Houston Rockets, the team went small, placing the 6’5″, 245-pound Tucker at center, which left him, at times, guarding opponents 60 pounds heavier and 5 inches taller. He enthusiastically embraced the challenge.
“Real talk, I’m just built for it,” Tucker says. “I love that. That’s my game and I look forward to and appreciate being able to battle and do that at my size. I’ve done my entire life and it’s amazing to be able to do it at the highest level, with me basically being the same size that I’ve been since eighth and ninth grade. [laughs]”
The Bucks traded for the battle-tested forward in March and they’re hoping his playoff experience of battling the supernova-era Warriors several years back can be a missing piece in a Bucks title run this season.
A second-round draft pick back in 2006, Tucker has spent plenty of time in every NBA city, allowing him to become well versed in locating some of the nation’s top restaurants. Tucker shares some of his top culinary selections, as well as his newfound snack obsession, and the agony his wife is put through when he indulges in his favorite treat.
What are you’re thoughts on the postseason run with your new team?
We are ready. We have a very good team this year and I’m just excited to get the playoffs going. That’s why we play this game, to play on the biggest stage, and the goal is always to win a championship. My big focus was getting acclimated with the guys and our coaching staff, which has been important. Playoff basketball is what it’s all about.
You were always known as a pancake eater, so how did you get hooked on avocado toast?
Avocados just give you those healthy fats and it’s very light. Usually, I would have pasta or eat pancakes, but avocado toast is really light, and I like the way it makes me feel and I also like the taste. I love going to different places now and trying different versions of it. There are a lot of different ways you can make it with different breads and toppings. My wife and my nanny would be eating it every day. They would always ask me if I wanted any and I would be like, “I don’t want none of that mess.” I didn’t even use avocado unless it was on a sandwich. I finally ate a piece with them one morning and I really liked it. I didn’t feel full for six hours like I would after eating pancakes. It all started there and now I’m rolling with it pregame.
Do you find yourself now needing to eat more before games?
Sometimes, I’ll need a little something more but even with the pancakes, I’ll have some different protein and some granola bars. I love loose granola, so I’ll always keep a big bag of loose granola just to snack on throughout the day. I’ll also snack on almonds all day just to knock off hunger. Depending on the time of day, I time it pretty well to where I’m not hungry during the game but if I eat it a little earlier, or if I’m really hungry, I’ll just grab a smoothie and I’m cool. I really like green smoothies. Kale, spinach with some orange and other fruits– I’m all about the green smoothies.
A lot of athletes are very regimented when it comes to their diet and time they eat. Do you fall into the category?
No. Every player is different. You can ask 100 players and get 100 different answers. Some guys have chefs, they meal prep, and all of that. For me, it’s literally how I feel when I wake up. I don’t take naps before games. I like to eat and then take a walk around the city, especially on the road. I’ll eat, go for a walk, come back to the hotel, chill and watch a movie before the game. I have little quirks like that, but the night before a game and the morning of, it just depends on how I feel.
I’m 15 years in. When I was younger, early in my career, it was different. It’s changed so much, and it took time to figure out what was best to eat and when. It’s been trial and error. There’s been a bunch of games in which I ate too much, or ate the wrong thing before, and I didn’t feel too good. It’s trial and error for sure.
Are you one of those guys who can land in a city in the early morning and immediately go grab something to eat?
That changes also and it just really depends. You might be on a three-games-in-four-night stint, you’re running on E and you have to grab something then. Sometimes, I’ll be on that or I might not be hungry at all. It just depends on the factors, like are you on the road, at home, and that’s why I prefer not to try and stick to a plan because things always change.
Quick, name your top five restaurants where you’ve eaten at during the season?
That’s hard for me because there are categories … I like Kin Khao. It’s a Thai place in San Francisco. I’ll go with Sushi Zo in New York. That’s insane, it’s a super private and really hard spot to get into, but definitely one of the best meals you’ll ever have in your life.
I’m also going to say in Houston its’ Turkey Leg Hut. If you like turkey, they’re amazing. The line is around the building and it’s crazy. Make sure you have a cot, pillow and blanket so you can go to sleep afterwards (laughs). I’m also going to go back and say San Francisco again with The Slanted Door. San Francisco is my favorite food city in the world by far. Every time we go there, there are so many restaurants.
Lastly, I’m going to roll with a place in Phoenix, Matt’s Big Breakfast. That’s like, my family and they never miss. It’s the best breakfast you’ve ever had.
Judging by your IG stories, it seems ice cream is your weakness. There would always be this ice cream spot you would frequent …
Creamistry [in Houston]! That right there, I can’t turn it down. If I drive past it, I’ve got to stop. I’m an ice cream guy, and it’s hard to turn it down, even with my body not agreeing with it. [laughs]. Every time my wife sees me with that, she’s like, “Oh no!” I’m like, “Yep!” She gets hot but I’m still going to go regardless.”
With your routine not being set in stone, what would your pregame typically look like?
Right now, it’s been my avocado toast. I’m from North Carolina, so my grandmother used to make spicy pork sausage that’s pan fried. That’s just from my childhood and it gives me the feeling of home. So that pairs with the toast and a smoothie. I like to do a walk after I eat and go shopping while on the road. Often, I look for new sneakers. I like getting fresh air and get my body moving before a game, so I go on walks. I know a lot of players like to sleep and lay up at the hotel, but I like to get my body moving because I don’t nap pregame. Obviously, getting dressed takes about an hour of my time before I head to the arena and that’s a big deal because I care A LOT about getting dressed. I also meditate, so I’ll get 15 minutes in every day just to visualize what I’m going to do that game and it puts me in the mindset of going to battle and getting a win.
BONUS SHOT: P.J. Tucker 3 Favorite Meals:
- Hennessy glazed turkey leg with crawfish, dirty rice and a side of mac and cheese.
- Pappy Van Winkle 20-year bourbon or Raveneau Chablis
- Crispy Imperial Spring Rolls
- Cellophane noodles
- Shaking Beef
- Key Lime Cotton Candy
- Griddle cakes (full order)
- Scrambled eggs with cheddar
- Crispy hash browns diced with sautéed onions and jalapeños covered with cheese
- Strawberry Lemonade