In a sport in which knees age in dog years and 35-year-olds are considered old school, Jason Kidd, 37, is a walking testament to what smart training can accomplish. Thus far, his career is bookended with an NBA Co-Rookie of the Year award in 1995 and an All-Star selection in 2010, and while he’s destined for the Hall of Fame, winning an NBA title would cap his resume perfectly.
Still, even without that ultimate prize, you can’t argue with Kidd’s achievements. With his 6-foot-4-inch height and his powerful frame, he spent the majority of his career as the guy most likely to log double-digit points, rebounds and assists whenever he stepped on the court. In fact, he has been a “triple-double” machine. He ranks second on the all-time list in playoff triple-doubles and third on the all-time list in regular season triple-doubles. He’s also one of only three players to average a triple-double for multiple playoff series. Wilt Chamberlain and Earvin “Magic” Johnson were the others.
As if that weren’t lofty enough, he can also count two Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball, two appearances in the NBA Finals, 10 All-Star Game nods, and the achievement of becoming the only player in NBA history to amass 15,000 points, 10,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds among his career highlights.
To reach such gaudy numbers, Kidd has had to maintain a grueling fitness regimen that keeps him off the injured list and on the court. The program worked for most of his career but took a slight setback when he needed microfracture surgery to repair a damaged knee in 2004. Post-surgery, Kidd had to alter his exercise routine to get his game back.
A Time for Change
“The biggest change in training for me was after my knee surgery,” Kidd says. “After the microfracture procedure, my lifting and cardio workouts really changed. I adapted my entire workout to get my knee back to peak form. Everything came to be about the maintenance of the knee.”
For Kidd, a dedicated gym rat, the change in his workouts was twofold. One, he had to go lighter on the weights in the beginning of rehab, and two, he had to find places where he could train hard without putting too much strain on his repaired knee. This took him, of all places, to the swimming pool.
“I went light with the weights to protect my knee,” Kidd says. “And we still lifted, but I started doing a lot of swimming, which I still do today. I do a lot of freestyle lap work, just to warm up. Then I run sprints in the deep end. I’ll start off by alternating 30 seconds of sprinting with 15 seconds of rest, then I’ll do one-minute sprints with 30 seconds of rest. I’m just out there pumping my arms and legs. It’s tough.”
But the water work is only part of how this old-school player uses new-school training methods. Kidd also incorporates yoga and an intense stretching regimen to maintain flexibility. “Stretching is key for me,” he says. “Yoga helps my ability to stretch, which is something I’ve only recently added to my program. Improving my flexibility has really helped my game.”
Back to Basics
Kidd’s game, for those who aren’t familiar, includes seriously strong D. Kidd has made nine All-NBA Defensive Teams and is fourth on the all-time steals list with more than 2,300 thefts. Defense, as any basketball purist will tell you, starts with quick feet and strong legs. Kidd has maintained both by relying on the most fundamental of all leg exercises: the squat.
“My ‘go to’ leg exercise is the squat,” he says. “That’s something that I do either single leg or double leg. It’s a simple exercise, and you see the results. If I do single leg, I’ll start off just testing to see how my knee is doing, then I’ll get going. Each day is different. The biggest thing is the results, which for me is being able to finish the season.”
In the offseason, Kidd spends three to four days a week lifting to keep his legs strong throughout the year. During the season, he’ll dial it back to two or three times a week, depending on how many games he has played. “If we have a week where we’re playing three games in five nights or something, I might just lift once or twice,” he says. “But I always have to do it. At my age, if my legs go, that will be the end of it.”
But Kidd’s legs aren’t the only parts of his body that are important to his success. He still incorporates upper-body work into his weightlifting routine a few times a week and never neglects his midsection and back. “Being able to have strong arms so I can knock down the open jump shot is important,” he says. “But your back takes a lot of stress, as well. If you can keep it strong, you’ll be in good shape for the season.”
And Kidd needs to be in good shape to guard all the “smaller guys,” as he calls them, guys like Steve Nash and Chris Paul and Deron Williams. “Those guys are so quick and so talented, it’s hard to defend them,” he says. “I played against John Stockton and Gary Payton, those guys were the best. Now this class is just as talented. You have a lot of guys who can play at a high level.”
The fact that Kidd can call John Stockton and Chris Paul his contemporaries is something of a feat in itself, considering Stockton was drafted a year before Paul was even born. When asked to compare the different eras that he has thrived in, Kidd says that guys are quicker and bigger now.
“I think there is so much information out there about how to exercise, it has really affected this new generation of players,” he says. “The guys are so health conscious now it’s definitely to their advantage. It seems like guys work out year-round now.”
For Kidd, keeping up with this younger crop of stars comes down to his training and his nutrition. “When you’re younger, you can eat whatever you want. You don’t always have to eat the right thing, and you can get away with not eating the best foods,” he says. “But you have to pay attention as you get older. One of the biggest things for me now is making sure I’m eating the right foods. I eat lots of raw vegetables and lots of fruit. I eat lots of chicken and fish. My post-game meals and postworkout meals are all designed to make sure that my body can recover and I feel good going into the next game or workout.”
The change in diet and exercise routine has clearly paid off because Kidd shows no signs of slowing down. Reflecting on his tenure in the league and the foreseeable future, he sounds like a man at ease with his age and his skills: “When I started out, I didn’t think about being in the league for 20 years. I just thought about that day. For me, it was just trying to play at a high level every time I’m back on the floor. All of a sudden, it’s been 10 to 15 years, and I’ve just been blessed. Physically, I feel great heading into this season.”
Kidd’s Hardcore Leg Workout
Here’s how Jason Kidd keeps his legs in All-Star shape.
Warm-Up : Do five to 10 minutes on the exercise bike, the elliptical machine or even jogging on the treadmill to get muscles warm and body prepared to start lifting