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Media Meltdowns

The Ringer Basketball Fellas Debate: Is Fasting For Ramadan Difficult?

Screenshot: YouTube

I consider myself to be something of a Bill Simmons podcast connoisseur. I am accustomed to the rhythms and themes that define his particular brand of NBA take-slinging. So when he announces, as he did on the latest episode of his podcast, that he did not vote Jalen Green onto the all-rookie team because the Houston Rockets only won 20 games and then yells, “Fuck Jalen Green!” it doesn’t really move the needle for me. Simmons said basically the same thing years ago about Devin Booker, whom he now glowingly compares to Kobe Bryant. This is just the shape of his basketball mind.

But even I couldn’t help but cock my head and listen a little closer when Simmons and his podcasting mates (Kevin O’Connor and Wosny Lambre) on this latest episode turned their attention towards the topic of fasting, and specifically Kyrie Irving’s undertaking of the ritual in observance of the Muslim holy month Ramadan. Here it was not Simmons, but O’Connor who seized the spotlight for himself.

“Fasting is not difficult,” O’Connor said in a rather dismissive tone when asked by Simmons if Irving would have any difficulty performing at a high level while fasting during the playoffs. This elicited some exasperated groans and laughs from Lambre and Simmons, and when those subsided O’Connor had a chance to explain himself.

“When I was at my peak condition physically, I was intermittent fasting every day,” O’Connor said. “I didn’t eat until like four at the earliest, sometimes six or seven. I’ve done 24-hour fasts before and I feel amazing. I feel incredible. It’s not easy to do, it just takes discipline, and it feels good. I feel great when I do it.”

Intermittent fasting is obviously much different than the fasting that practicing Muslims partake in during Ramadan. Those who observe cannot eat or drink water from sunrise to sunset, whereas people who fast intermittently are more or less choosing to skip breakfast and have a late lunch. Similarly, Kyrie Irving is an elite athlete who must keep his body in tip-top shape in order to competently do his job, whereas Kevin O’Connor is a guy who looks at his computer all day and can probably get along just fine while foregoing his morning muffin. It is odd to misunderstand these specifics while putting forth such a strident opinion, and even weirder still to think that one’s personal and limited experience with fasting would offer any sort of insight into what it’s like for a professional athlete to try and perform without consuming food or water all day.

Consider this your latest reminder that the NBA take economy has simply gotten too big, and currently demands too much input from those who choose to participate in its creation. Keep the unceasing flow of basketball opinions going for too long, and eventually you end up with a basketblogger delivering a line like, “Fasting is not difficult” as self-assuredly as he might claim that a contested mid-range jumper is a bad shot. If you’re a self-appointed expert on one topic, it’s hard to stop being one on any other topic. What I’m saying is that we should all be prepared for Simmons’s next podcast to feature a 15-minute segment in which he and O’Connor put together their Mount Rushmore of spiritual discipline. Is self-flagellation in Tier 2, or does it have sneaky Tier 1 potential?

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