Among the many things that needed to right for the Dallas Mavericks to win their first ever NBA title, they needed to stay healthy. And while that is true of every team, with an older team the odds of problems go up.
So, the Mavericks players got cold.
From late April right through to their final championship-clinching victory over the Heat, a sextet of Mavs — Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler and Brian Cardinal — made the 20-minute trek from American Airlines Center to a wellness facility in Plano, Texas, two times a week. The grizzled NBA vets, all of whom are 33 or older except for the 28-year-old Chandler, would head to an upstairs room that had all the warmth of a no-frills clinic. They would strip to their underwear and socks, don fleece gloves and, one at a time, step inside a six-foot-tall, padded blue-green silo that encased them up to their necks (or, in the case of the seven-footers, Nowitzki and Chandler, up to their chests). A large metal bin next to the silo would begin to whir, and smoky vapor would swirl out of the chamber, as if the players were being cooked in a cauldron.
Actually, they were being frozen. For two and a half minutes — at a cost of $75 per person, billed to Mavs owner Mark Cuban — blasts of nitrogen-chilled air emanated from the walls, quickly dropping the air temperature to as low as -320 degrees Fahrenheit. By the last 30 to 45 seconds, their bodies would be shaking uncontrollably.
As a guy who has spent his entire life living in warm climates for a reason, that sounds like torture. Or a weekend in Fargo.
It makes some medical sense (at least to those of us non-doctor types) — athletes have been taking ice baths for years. This is in theory just a more intense version of that and I knew some European teams (soccer especially) used this. Read Bucher’s article to find out more about how it is supposed to work.
I have no idea if it works, what matters is the players at least thought it did. Terry raved about it in the article, and one would not keep subjecting themselves to this if they didn’t think there was a benefit. Whether the effect was placebo or real, the Mavericks became the first team in NBA history to ride a cold streak to a title.