Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart Says His NBA Playoff Prep Contains One Unexpected ‘Must’

The NBA playoffs come with unique pressures on the players. Here's how one baller gets his game face on...literally.

At age 29, Marcus Smart is at the top of his game. As starting point guard for the Boston Celtics, Smart became just the sixth guard in NBA history to be named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the 2021-22 season. He’s also the first player to be awarded the NBA Hustle Award twice.

Now with the NBA playoffs looming, a pro needs to prepare—and Smart says he’s proactive about staying healthy on and off the court. He recently sat down with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest to discuss how his approach to protecting his body has evolved over the years.

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Marcus Smart reveals a self-care step you might not expect

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: You’ve partnered with Pronamel Active Shield, which some might venture to say doesn’t seem like a typical pro athlete partnership—however, our teeth and our health are linked in often unexpected ways. We’ve covered how many dental problems increased since 2020 because the pandemic led so many of us to grind our teeth from stress. Also, one of the MDs we regularly turn to, Matthew Varacallo, MD, is a board-certified sports medicine surgeon who noted how oral health is important because it can be a common gateway to infections throughout the rest of the body.

So can you talk about the importance of good dental hygiene for you as a pro athlete in a way that might surprise even some of your fans?

Marcus Smart: I’m on TV, you know, we’re on the court—we’re seen. We’re not like football where we have something protecting our face that you can’t really see us. So everybody’s looking at your smile … so for me, that’s part of the importance … You know, I love my enamel and I love my teeth and I want [them] to be here for a very long time.

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Marcus Smart on preparing for the playoffs

Boston Celtics' Marcus SmartMitchell Leff/GETTY IMAGES

The Healthy: ‘“I love my enamel.” That’s a great quote. So obviously the NBA playoffs are starting, which comes with plenty of pressure. Is the way you prepare mentally and physically the same all the time, or does it change when you approach the playoffs?

Marcus Smart: Slight change. You start to tighten things up. You start to really isolate yourself from your family, friends a little bit more, because you’re trying to focus. You have this amount of time left and you just want to give it everything you have. So for me, I cut out a lot of the foods that I’ve eaten. I try to go to bed a little earlier than I’m usually used to going to bed. I try to take care of my body, try to make sure I’m getting into [physio] treatment as much as possible, and make sure that I feel good to be able to perform at my best.

The Healthy: Do you feel that you changed your approach to body preservation and staying healthy from your first one or two years in the league compared now?

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Marcus Smart: Definitely. My first two years in the league, I was fresh. I was coming out of college, where we had a McDonald’s right down the street from us, and that was what we ate as college kids, just being able to eat whatever I wanted to. So it was a little tough trying to understand and rationalize what you need to eat and how to eat and when. 

As you get older, your body starts to talk to you a little bit more and if you don’t listen it, it’ll make you listen. And so as you get older, you definitely start to change the way you think about eating and preserving your body.

The Healthy: How about mentally? Is that something that has evolved at all for you?

Marcus Smart: It’s huge. It’s huge. Just focusing on controlling what I can control … that’s something that I have grown to really embrace mentally, and it’s helped me tremendously.

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Marcus Smart on practicing self-care

The Healthy: Can you share your general wellness routine with us? Does it change in the off season at all?

Marcus: Actually it changes in the sense that it’s more in the off-season. That’s the time that we’re usually off training, so this is where you have more time to spend on your body. You have more time to spend on yourself where you don’t have to worry about having practice the next day, or having a game the next day. I have something to do. You can actually take time to think about “me” and get you right. 

The Healthy: My last question for you is something that we ask everyone. What is the one self-care habit that you refuse to skip? 

Marcus Smart: I have to brush my teeth! I have to brush my teeth and I have to use Pronamel. Like I said, I love my enamel and I’ve always been taught that once the enamel is gone, it’s gone. So to be able to have something there to help prevent it … it’s something I can’t skip. 

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Miranda Manier
Miranda is the Associate Editor for TheHealthy.com and The Healthy section of Reader's Digest magazine. Previously, Miranda was a producer at WNIT, the PBS affiliate in South Bend, Indiana; and the producer in residence for Minneapolis TV news KARE 11, where she won an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award for producing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. Miranda also interned at Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, and worked as the managing editor at the Columbia Chronicle at Columbia College. Outside of work, Miranda enjoys acting, board games, and trying her hand at a good vegan dessert recipe. She also loves talking about TV—so tell her what you’re watching!