It's one of the signature parts of watching LeBron James playing basketball: his infamous pre-game chalk toss. Scientists now believe that act helps his performance.
Prof. David Eilam from Tel Aviv University and his team found the routine ritualistic behaviors of LeBron and other professional athletes help reduce stress, maintain focus and enhance concentration. The research, which has been published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, show pregame superstitions can be an essential part of sports psychology.
So many athletes have their rituals, from dribbling six times before a free throw to tapping a crossbar with a goalie stick.
Former Red Sox and Yankees star Wade Boggs used to eat chicken before every game and took exactly 150 groundballs during infield practice.
Retired Mets and Cubs pitcher Turk Wendell had a ritual of chewing four pieces of black licorice before spitting them out at the end of each inning. Wendell would end up brushing his teeth before starting over again with new licorice.
Another old Red Sox star, Nomar Garciaparra, would unstrap and restart his batting gloves numerous times at a rapid pace between pitches.
Defensive tackle John Henderson, now of the Oakland Raiders, had a viral video a few years back of his pregame ritual, which involved getting slapped.
LSU football coach Les Miles enjoys eating grass (the legal kind) when times get tough.
Science Daily reports researchers found that repetitive behavior in general and especially ritualistic behavior is not just limited to humans; animals do it too.
The study concludes that in both the animal kingdom and human world, such behavior was developed in order to help us relax in stressful situations. The superstitions help people think they can control a tough environment when, in reality, they can't.
Maybe LeBron should throw his chalk at the beginning of the fourth quarter instead of the first.