Last fall, Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert was playing the best basketball of his career—until November 12, when he dislocated his foot in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was an injury far too gruesome to show on replay, the kind involving a mangled extremity that causes teammates and opponents to collectively shake their heads in disbelief while the crowd sits in absolute silence. (Seriously, don’t Google it.) Except, LeVert remembers, it didn’t actually hurt that much. At first.
“I was more mad than anything,” he says. “I wasn’t even thinking of the pain, which was probably partially adrenaline and disbelief. It didn’t hit me until we got in the ambulance 15 minutes after they carted me off the court, and my trainer was talking to me—trying to distract me. Next thing I know, they’re jerking my foot, and that’s when I realized, Oh, this is real. That moment was the worst pain I’ve ever felt.”
Remarkably, after doctors popped LeVert’s foot back into place, no surgery was required. He missed three months, but returned to action in February. He had an (understandably) up-and-down remainder of the season, but capped it off with an impressive performance in the first round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.
This offseason, LeVert prioritized strengthening his foot and ankle by employing a variety of balancing drills, while also squeezing in a healthy amount of hooping. LeVert logged four-a-days: two on-the-court workouts and two off-the-court workouts. That’s an encouraging development for Nets fans hoping he’ll emerge as the team’s second star this season, behind Kyrie Irving (and third star next season when Kevin Durant presumably returns after suffering a ruptured Achilles.)
A few weeks ago, I spoke to LeVert about the full extent of his offseason routine, recent changes to his diet, and his affection for float tanks. At the time of our conversation, LeVert was gearing up for his first-ever trip to China as part of a preseason double-header against the Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had yet to fire off his fateful tweet about Hong Kong. LeVert said he was looking forward to the overseas experience, which presumably became a bit more complicated than originally anticipated.
GQ: Can you walk me through a normal day for you this offseason?
Caris LeVert: I took about two weeks off after we lost to the 76ers in the playoffs. After that, I started my workouts here in Brooklyn. First, I’d get some breakfast in—usually two or three eggs, some veggies like broccoli, and I love oatmeal in the morning, too. I’d head to the gym around 9 a.m. to do a 30-minute lift. We call those correctives, where you’re more working on balance drills, hamstrings, and core work. The Nets are big on that. The corrective workout isn’t your typical lift, but it helps strengthen your “little muscles.”
Then, I’d have an hour-and-a-half workout on the court, and after that is a bigger upper- or lower-body lift. I’d get some treatment, do some more balance drills to strengthen my ankle back up. Then I’d usually go home and take a nap, chill for a couple hours, and head back to the gym later that night and get a bunch of shots up.
Have you always stuck to a healthy-sounding diet?
No, that’s been the biggest adjustment the past couple of years: I wasn’t really very educated on what makes up a healthy diet. In college, I would eat a lot of Five Guys and burgers. Everybody eats differently, but that’s not the best for your digestive system, and I’ve learned that over the years. Now I stay away from pork, beef, and things like that. I stick to chicken a couple times a week, and I eat a lot of fish and veggies. I don’t really like fruit, so I drink a lot of smoothies to get my fruit intake up.
Yeah, I’ve seen that the Nets are big on pre-game fruit smoothies.
We’ve got a couple smoothie-makers. I’ll drink one on game days, and then any other day, if you ask for one, you’ll get it. I think as I’ve matured and learned more about food, I’ve stopped eating as much for taste. I eat and drink based on what I need in my body. Usually my smoothies have strawberries, bananas, some sort of vegetable, a protein powder, almond milk, honey, blueberries, and sometimes orange juice.
What’s the one thing you still sneak in when you can?
Chocolate chip cookies. I can’t go too long without having one. They’ve gotta be homemade, straight out of the oven. I don’t like the store-bought stuff. They need to be crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
I read that you eat Chipotle five times a week. True or false?
True, though I’m sad to say me and Chipotle have cut ties a little bit. I got sick eating while training in LA over the summer, and I’m not positive, but I think it was Chipotle, so I haven’t had it since. It was definitely tough at first, but I’m doing alright now, starting to get used to not eating it every day.
I wrote a hot take essay for GQ where I proudly proclaimed that Qdoba is better than Chipotle, so this is an issue near and dear to my heart. Are you familiar with Qdoba?
I am, and wow, I disagree with that statement. I know a lot of people think that, though, so I don’t know if it’s even a hot take. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, but in high school and college, people really liked Qdoba more than Chipotle. To each their own.
You weighed 162 pounds when you arrived at Michigan in 2012. Were you getting thrown around at practice your freshman year?
Honestly, I wasn’t. I was so used to playing at that size that I adjusted to it. People probably weren’t used to seeing someone that small. Playing in the Big 10 was definitely an adjustment though. Unlike a lot of other conferences, it’s very physical and defense-based. I feel like at a lot of other conferences, everybody scores 80 or 90 points a game, but Big 10 scoring was in the 40s when I was there. I definitely had to bulk up. Some of that happened naturally, but I had a great strength coach too who prepared me for the next level. Going into my sophomore season, I was up to 190, 195. I stayed at Michigan through the summers when people went home and dedicated all my time to my body and my game, and it paid off for me.
One of the many, many reasons I did not advance past high school basketball: I avoided the weight room like the plague. How was your workout regimen growing up?
My high school coach my junior and senior year was a man named Jerry Francis. He played basketball at Ohio State and is one of their all-time great players. He started to get us in the weight room, and I hated the weight room. We’d go in there and I’d act like I was doing stuff, but I really wasn’t. I’d do a pull-up here, maybe a bench press there, but I wanted to play basketball. I was not dedicated to the weight room. He changed my mindset and pushed me on that, which I appreciate him for. But back then, I really didn’t want to be there.
You’ve had to deal with a couple annoying and painful injuries over the years. Do you practice any relaxation techniques or meditation so you don’t go stir crazy during those rehab periods?
I’ve been doing headspace stuff since before I had any of those injuries. [John Beilein, current Cleveland Cavaliers coach and former Michigan Wolverines coach] actually brought someone in who taught that stuff to us, and I’ve carried it with me ever since. I do meditation and visualization before every game. I do things like the float tank, which helps me get into that mindframe of calmness. I take that really seriously.
How long does a float tank session last?
As long as you want it to, but I usually do an hour. You go into a pod—it’s kind of like The Matrix. The first time I did it, I was a little skeptical, because I’m claustrophobic. You put headphones on, you don’t hear anything, and it’s pitch-black. It’s just you and your thoughts. I use that time for meditation, focusing on breathing and visualization. I do that once or twice a week during the season, and it relaxes me.
Steph Curry ranked the Nets’ popcorn selection second-best in the league. Have you tried it?
Nah, I’m not a big popcorn guy. I’ve heard it’s fire, though.
For a while, I know PB&Js were all the rage in the NBA.
I used to eat a bunch of those my rookie year. Charlotte had the best PB&Js—they had them toasted or something like that. But I don’t really eat that anymore. At halftime now I’ll eat, like, pineapples. Just trying to stay consistent with it, you know?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Real-Life Diet is a series in which GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and everyone in-between about their diets and exercise routines: what's worked, what hasn't, and where they're still improving. Keep in mind, what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
The queen of pop's lead dancer balances international arena tours with a modeling and acting career by preaching discipline, discipline, and more discipline.
Originally Appeared on GQ