For about two months this summer, Warriors big man Kevon Looney spent an hour every other day rolling at the Beverly Hills Jiu Jitsu Club in Los Angeles. What started as a way to shake up his off-season workout regimen quickly became an obsession.
After Warriors practices, Looney often watches old UFC fights on YouTube. His iPhone is loaded with UFC podcasts. In August, when Golden State released its preseason schedule, Looney was disappointed to see that he’d have to miss the Bellator MMA event at San Jose’s SAP Center last month to play an exhibition against Minnesota.
“Doing the same workouts can get boring, so I found jiu jitsu and got pretty addicted to it,” Looney said Thursday. “Without it, I don’t think I’d be feeling as good as I am right now. I feel great.”
After his first two NBA seasons were derailed by hip surgeries and inconsistency, Looney didn’t have his fourth-year option picked up last October. That he still emerged as a valued rotation player was one of the season’s more surprising developments. After playing solid defense on Houston’s Chris Paul and James Harden in the Western Conference finals, Looney was a factor in the Warriors’ NBA Finals sweep of Cleveland, chipping in eight points and four rebounds in Game 1.
Still, the free-agent market for big men was tepid, at best, and it didn’t take Looney long to decide that coming back to Golden State on a one-year minimum deal of $1.6 million would be his best option. By the time news of his return surfaced in early July, he had already been training at UCLA for a couple weeks.
Looney lifted weights for about 90 minutes each morning before slogging through an hour of basketball drills and another 90 minutes of scrimmages against such All-Stars as Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. To round out his afternoon, Looney switched daily between a running track and heading to Beverly Hills Jiu Jitsu Club, where he worked on the fundamentals of the Brazilian variation of the Japanese martial art.
At the urging of West and Pachulia, Looney had dabbled in boxing while visiting his native Milwaukee in June. But it was jiu jitsu, aspects of which can be found in UFC fights, that most captured his interest. After sessions, Looney studied videos of MMA fighters Daniel Cormier and Tyron Woodley. The next day, at his jiujitsu class, Looney practiced their moves with his instructor.
“I’m really competitive, and I kept losing every day in class,” Looney said. “I wanted to see what to do, so I kept watching UFC videos. Now it’s just a habit.”
Looney doesn’t plan to try jiu jitsu again until the season ends out of fear that it would leave him exhausted for games. In the meantime, he’ll stream every UFC fight he can, listen to his go-to UFC podcasts and take out his aggression on opposing big men vying for rebounds.
“He’s more confident now,” Kerr said. “He’ll speak up in meetings. He just knows he belongs.”
(Curated Article sourced from www.sfchronicle.com)
Andy Gonzalez is a coach at Aces Jiu Jitsu Club. He has earned his purple belt under Professor Mikal Abdullah. Follow Andy on Twitter at @GoGoGonzilla
Andy lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Amanda and their 3 beautiful children. Andy is also the father of a Marine who is honorably serving in the United States Marine Corps.