Apart from their skills on the court, NBA players are known to enjoy the finer things in life, and a fantastic meal can be counted among them. Life for these elite players shouldn't be all about basketball; these guys also need to eat, but some of their favorite restaurants might surprise you. Plenty of players gravitate toward luxurious meals in hard-to-get-into restaurants — Micheal Jordan loved steakhouses so much that he started his own — while other NBA stars prefer the food at more modest places, like small chains or eateries with a unique perspective on international cuisine. And, of course, some of them just love junk food.
NBA players crisscross the nation during basketball season and attend lots of media events, allowing them to visit restaurants all over. Some have taken this opportunity to test the waters of foodie culture, and given the massive social media followings and general popularity of the NBA's brightest stars, a player's glowing review of a particular restaurant can have a significant impact on its reputation. Not only that, NBA players often evolve into businessmen with branding opportunities that expand far beyond promoting basketball sneakers. It's not out of the ordinary for NBA players to open their own restaurants inspired by the food they love to eat. If you've ever wondered where some of your favorite basketballers like to enjoy a meal, check out these 13 favorite restaurants of NBA players.
Read more: Famous Chefs Who Are Jerks In Real Life
Scottie Pippen - Il Pastaio, Beverly Hills, California
Chicago Bulls icon Scottie Pippen retired from the NBA in 2004, cementing himself as one of the league's all-time greatest players. He may not be sharing a table with Michael Jordan at five-star restaurants the way he did in the 90s, but Pippen is still a man of great taste. Pippen lives full-time in Los Angeles nowadays, which makes it super convenient to frequent his favorite restaurant, Il Pastaio, in Beverly Hills.
Il Pastaio (Italian for "pasta maker") is owned by illustrious Sicilian chef Giacomino Drago and his restauranteur brothers. Since 1994, Il Pastaio has been serving simple, elevated Italian fare to the celebrity set. Known for its house-made pasta, classic veal dishes, and fine wines, the restaurant takes pride in emphasizing a seasonal menu and catering to its revolving door of who's-who patrons (there's a rigatoni and pink sauce dish named after Justin Bieber). Pippen is a regular, stopping by Il Pastaio to feast on favorites like branzino and black truffle pasta. Pippen has been snapped by the paparazzi on numerous occasions leaving Il Pastaio, but he's not the only highly decorated champion athlete who enjoys eating there. Back in 2017, Pippen spotted tennis star Novak Djokovic dining at one of the outdoor tables and was so pumped he stopped to chat and even asked a fellow lunchgoer to snap a photo of them.
LeBron James - Carbone, Multiple Locations
It's a notoriously exclusive A-lister spot, but when you're an NBA's G.O.A.T., you can pretty much get into any restaurant you want. LeBron James doesn't frequent Carbone for the clout alone; he's such a big fan of the restaurant he wrote about it for Variety magazine in 2016. James described his love of dining out in New York City with a big group of friends, writing, " ... it's about the experience. Good vibe, good food, and good people." He also mentioned some favorite menu items, "The rigatoni and the porterhouse at Carbone are unbelievable ... "
Carbone is part of Major Food Group, a high-powered collection of glitzy international restaurants, bars, clubs, and hotels owned by Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick (whom James calls a friend). The original Carbone opened in Greenwich Village in 2013, and its food was self-described as Italian-American. Carbone seeks to honor New York's mid-century Italian restaurants whose red sauce plates faded into outer-borough obscurity in subsequent decades as renowned chefs and the diners who adored them put French haute cuisine on a longstanding pedestal.
Carbone's take on red sauce plates involves exemplary finesse, and the restaurant has expanded worldwide. When Carbone Miami became the new East Coast hot-ticket restaurant, LeBron James was ready, posting on Instagram: "MAN O MAN!! I CANNOT wait to get to Miami so I can go to one of my favorite restaurants in the world now located there, too. CARBONE!!!!! Wowzers!!"
Nikola Jokic - Rakija Lounge - Miami, Florida
Nothing beats the familiar taste of home, especially when you move thousands of miles away to become one of the best NBA players currently in the league. Serbian-born Nikola Jokic, the incomparable center of the Denver Nuggets and the NBA's reigning MVP, is forging a historic athletic career. Despite all of his accomplishments in the U.S., Jokic isn't about to become overly Americanized — especially when it comes to food. That's why he loves to eat at Rakija Lounge, where the authentic flavors of Serbia meet the sandy shores of Miami Beach. When the Denver Nuggets faced off with the Miami Heat during the NBA finals conference in the summer of 2023, Jokic, who hails from Sombor, Serbia, dined at Rakija Lounge several times.
The restaurant is decked out in a tiki bar theme, but the house specialties are predominantly Balkan, with items like cevapi: beef sausages served in a fresh-baked pita with kajmak cheese, onion, and ajvar, a traditional Serbian sauce made with roasted red peppers and eggplant. The name Rakija itself is an ode to Serbia as it's the name of the country's national drink — a fruit brandy — also called "rakia" in other Balkan regions. There's plenty of rakija being toasted around the lounge, but Jokic comes in for the Karadjordjeva Schnitzel, a rolled 12-ounce cutlet of chicken or pork stuffed with kajmak, breaded, fried, and served with fries and tartar sauce.
Steph Curry - KoJa Kitchen, California (Multiple Locations)
NBA superstar and family man Steph Curry loves his wife's home-cooked meals, but his passion for food reaches beyond his personal kitchen. The Golden Gate Warriors' superstar point guard (and greatest shooter of all time) doesn't require a celebrity-studded guest from his favorite San Francisco restaurants. Instead, he gravitates toward simple places like food trucks, where the meal is the main event, rather than a glittery ambiance. This is why Curry counts the small California chain KoJa Kitchen as one of his absolute favorites.
Curry describes himself as an "avid customer" of KoJa Kitchen and has been ordering there since its early days as a food truck. However, nowadays, the restaurant also has several brick-and-mortar locations. On an episode of Curry's YouTube short-form series "5 Minutes From Home" that features esports gamers Myth and Hamlinz, Curry took them to the KoJa Kitchen food truck, which he said was "unreal." KoJa stands for "Korean, Japanese," and the eatery features a distinctive type of sandwich, simply called a koja. The buns are made from crispy fried garlic rice and feature a variety of Asian-inspired fillings. "The Original" Koja is Curry's go-to order and is made up of Korean barbeque short ribs, sesame vinaigrette lettuce, katsu aioli, and sesame seeds. We think he may be onto something.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - Avli, Chicago, Illinois / Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Affectionately known as the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP of the Milwaukee Bucks and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, is considered by several of his contemporaries as the best player in the league today. He was born in Greece after his parents immigrated there from Nigeria, and has a soft spot for Mediterranean cuisine. Away games in Chicago introduced Antetokounmpo to Avli, a Chicago-area chain dealing in modern Greek cuisine. Antetokounmpo kept returning to Avli, prompting the restaurant's owners, Lou Canellis and Louie Alexakis, to open their latest location in the Brewers Hill section of Milwaukee.
Soon enough, Antetokounmpo and his pair of sports agents from his days in Greece struck a deal with Avli's owners and became partners in the Milwaukee operation. Avli Milwaukee opened for business in September 2023. Notable Avli menu items include kataifi prawns with spicy aioli, an assortment of scratch-made Greek dips like tzatziki and tarama (featuring cod roe, potato, bread, and sunflower oil), and larger plates like lamb chops and baked chicken. Antetokounmpo expressed excitement over his involvement with one of his favorite restaurants, pledging via Instagram stories that he would visit Avli after every game.
Kevin Durant - Ocean 44, Scottdale, Arizona
He was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Phoenix Suns in early 2023, but it appears Durant is adjusting to Arizona just fine. On the culinary side of things, the talented forward has gotten well-acquainted with the stylish seafood restaurant Ocean 44 in Scottsdale. The posh eatery is part of brothers Jeff and Mike Mastro's impressive restaurant group, Prime Steak Concepts, along with well-known spots like Steak 48 and Dominick Steakhouse. Shortly after his arrival to the Southwest, the former Rookie of The Year and 13-time All-Star told the Arizona Republic, "I've been going to Ocean 44 the last couple of weeks," and praised the hospitality he's received since his move.
It's not surprising why Durant is settling in at Ocean 44; the man loves his seafood. In 2018, Durant's personal chef, Ryan Lopez, revealed that the NBA great eats eight-ounce servings of seafood no less than six times a week. Salmon, sea bass, shrimp, and scallops are among his favorites. Lucky for Durant, Ocean 44 gives the fine-dining treatment to his protein of choice; Shetland Island Salmon, Chilean Sea Bass, and New Bedford Sea Scallops are on the menu.
Charles Barkley - Chuck's Fish, Multiple Locations
When he's not winning Emmys for his sports commentary or tearing it up on the golf green, NBA hall of famer Charles Barkley enjoys treating his friends to a nice restaurant meal. Barkley was raised in Leeds, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, and maintains ties with the community there. When Barkley is in Birmingham, he makes a point to take his friends to one of his favorite restaurants, Chuck's Fish.
Speaking with Thrillist, Barkley said, " ... I like to go to Chuck's Fish for sushi. I don't eat fish, but I can go there and eat a million of their cucumber rolls. Occasionally, if they have a good special that's not fish, I'll get that, but usually, I just get a bunch of cucumber rolls. Chuck's is where I take my friends who like sushi." We love the idea of Barkley gathering at a nice restaurant he knows his friends will appreciate almost as much as we love picturing him taking down a tower of cucumber rolls. Barkley is right, though; Chuck's Fish is a jewel of the Birmingham restaurant scene. The small southern chain offers an upscale assortment of sushi as well as regional seafood-centered delicacies like Gulf Seafood Gumbo.
Luka Doncic - Henk's European Deli & Black Forest Bakery, Dallas, Texas
Although Luka Doncic has only been in the NBA since 2018, the scoring sensation from Slovenia isn't just a star player for the Dallas Mavericks; he's one of the top players in professional basketball today. Since moving to Dallas from his home city of Ljubljana, Doncic hasn't had to go too far to get his hands on some delicious eats from his native continent thanks to Henk's European Deli & Black Forest Bakery. The restaurant is one of Doncic's favorites.
Henk's European Deli & Black Forest Bakery is a Dutch-owned establishment. However, it's well-known for serving up some awesome German specialties, from warm potato salad, grilled bratwurst, schnitzel, and, of course, beer. It has been doing business in Dallas since 1961 as a deli, bakery, and marketplace. Henk's Black Forest Bakery can be found within the restaurant and is not to be missed. Peer into the showcase and prepare to drool; the Cherry Black Forest and Swiss Madrisa are considered to be some of the best cakes in the city.
Jayson Tatum - Imo's, St. Louis, Missouri
Though he plays for the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum is a St. Louis man through and through. The NBA All-Star has sung the praises of his home city's dining scene in the past, including the little-known local delight of St. Louis-style pizza. With characteristics like a yeastless, cracker-crisp crust cut into squares, local processed cheese called Provel, and an oregano-forward red sauce, St. Louis pizza isn't going to do it for everyone. Still, it is popular enough to have a Midwest chain devoted to it. That chain is Imo's.
Originating in St. Louis in 1964, Imo's is a family-owned restaurant that is credited with popularizing the concept of pizza delivery and has earned a cult following among Midwesterners like Tatum. He has cited Imo's pizza as his favorite food and even gave the restaurant a televised shout-out during the 2017 NBA draft, for which Tatum was snatched up by the Celtics and picked third overall. The enthusiasm turned out to be mutual. That same year, Tatum became an official Imo's spokesperson and appeared in ads for his beloved hometown restaurant.
Dwayne Wade - Prime 112, Miami, Florida
Recent hall of famer Dwayne Wade has roots in Miami. He spent 14 of his 16-season NBA career playing for the Miami Heat, during which he helped lead the team to three championship titles. Though he and his family relocated to Los Angeles in 2021, Wade was a fixture at Miami's Prime 112 for years, a boutique steakhouse known as a favorite among celebrities. Wade's connection to Prime 112 goes beyond a swanky night on the town; the restaurant set the scene for several milestones in his life.
Wade was at Prime 112 when LeBron James announced he'd be joining the Miami Heat in 2010. He also held his wedding rehearsal dinner there when he married actress Gabrielle Union in 2014, for which the restaurant served a special menu that included chicken and waffles and fried Oreos. Perhaps most poignantly, Wade hosted a formal dinner at Prime 112 to celebrate his retirement from the NBA. At the event, all the guests wore white and dined on Prime 112's signature crab cakes, truffle mac and cheese, and one of Wade's faves, chicken and waffles. Prime 112 opened its doors in 2004 as part of the Myles Restaurant Group from restauranteur and Miami native Myles Chefetz. In a 2023 interview with People magazine, Wade spoke highly of Prime 112 and Chefetz, saying, "I've done birthday parties there. I've talked about them so other people can hear about them, so I just always support it."
Joel Embiid - Chick-Fil-A, Multiple Locations
The NBA loves its idiosyncratic players, and the league certainly has one in the Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid. The Cameroon native may stand seven feet tall, but he has the eating habits of an elementary school kid and doesn't care who knows it. Embiid notoriously requests his steak to be burnt and, according to teammate Amir Johnson, prefers his chicken wings " ... extra, extra, extra, extra, extra, extra well done." He also hates pizza (uh, ok, Joel), and his drug of choice is a pitcher of Shirley Temples. One place that does get it right, in Embiid's opinion, is Chick-fil-A.
For the last decade-plus, the Philadelphia 76ers have upheld a light hazing tradition involving Sixers rookies obligated to supply veteran teammates with Chick-fil-A crispy chicken sandwiches to fortify the journey to away games. When Embiid got a taste of Chick-fil-A, he never looked back. Now, as one of Philly's seasoned — and most prized — players, Embiid puts in a special request to the fresh blood, placing the begrudged Chick-fil-A order: four crispy chicken sandwiches with nothing on them, four orders of french fries, four cookies, and four milkshakes. Now that's some pre-game fuel.
Dennis Rodman - Sugar Factory, Las Vegas, Nevada
Rodman's love of Las Vegas is practically the stuff of NBA folklore, so it makes sense that his favorite restaurant is on the Sunset Strip. His off-court exploits and hard-partying reputation tend to overshadow his NBA career a little too often, but lest you forget, Rodman is widely viewed as the best rebounder of all time and was one of the only teammates Michael Jordan didn't badmouth in his 2020 documentary "The Last Dance." Now that we've got that out of the way, let Rodman party it up at his beloved Sugar Factory.
A huge restaurant and candy store like the Sugar Factory demands a location where it can be seen; that's why you'll find the chain at buzzy spots like New York City's Times Square and inside several U.S. casinos. Back in 2011, Rodman famously went all in at Vegas' Sugar Factory for his 50th birthday — which he celebrated two months late — kicking the meal off with shrimp cocktail, chicken skewers, macaroni and cheese pops, and sliders before gorging on New York strip and Black Angus steaks, pan-roasted salmon, and a King Kong Sundae for dessert. Goblets of Sugar Factory's Berry Bliss cocktails and cigars (Rodman supplied those) accompanied the feast.
Yao Ming - Beijing Restaurant, San Francisco, California
American Chinese food isn't fake Chinese food; it's simply an evolution of mainland China's traditional cuisine. That said, not all the Chinese restaurants you encounter in the U.S. strictly serve Cantonese and Schezuan-style dishes Americans love; places like Beijing Restaurant in San Francisco also offer meals that you'll see in China. One person who appreciates the restaurant's efforts is Houston Rocket veteran Yao Ming.
The 7-foot-6-inch Shanghai native and NBA Hall of Famer helped give basketball greater global appeal in the early 2000s, due to his ability to draw in crowds wherever he played. When Beijing Kitchen opened shop in 2009, Ming was an early customer, and his oft-photographed visits generated business for the small restaurant. Beijing Kitchen showed their appreciation by adorning the dining room walls with numerous pictures of Ming. What drew Ming to Beijing Kitchen in the first place was its menu section of "Beijing Specials," containing unexpected ingredients like eggplant and potato, various meatball dishes, and curious-sounding plates such as Egg Surfaced Three Flavor or Sour Preserved Green — but hey, if you know, and Ming most certainly does.
Read the original article on Mashed.