Before Carlos Boozer leaves the locker room, he walks in front of the mirror and says, "I am a special, kind, talented person and mean words can't hurt me anymore. I am a somebody."
This has been a ritual for Boozer over the past three seasons as part of therapy designed to help him deal with hurt feelings from rude fans. "For years I took the verbal abuse personally. I used to cry in the shower after ever road game. Sometimes I would need one of the assistant coaches to coax me back on to the floor after half time. I couldn't understand why they (the fans) would tell me I stink. I don't stink, I'm in the NBA, don't they realize that?" Boozer said.
NBA players have an unspoken rule about not admitting that fans affect their game, but according to a recent study, 85% of players anonymously admitted to getting their feelings hurt on a regular basis. Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Times last June that an opponent's fan stuck his tongue at him and Walton was unable to focus after the incident.
Walton and Boozer each have their own approach to dealing with the comments.
"Just once I'd love to come to your office and wave one of those dumb sticks at you while you try to give a presentation. Later that day I'd rag on you unmercifully about your lack of power point skills, make general insults about your wife, tell you to earn your salary and repeatedly ask you about the memo regarding the TPS reports. I want you to feel bad on the inside like you made me feel," Boozer said.
After a ten minute break, Boozer finally composed himself and began recalling a bad experience in Phoenix 3 years ago that was a turning point.
"It was pre game and I was warming up with my coach, shooting jump shots and working on technique. Some jerk yells, Trim your eyebrows, maybe you'll actually make a few shots, Loozer! My coach could immediately see my eyes welling up with tears and knew he had to get me off the court immediately. I spent the next two hours crying and complaining of a fake ankle injury so I wouldn't have to face those mean fans. It was then that I was introduced to my therapist, Dr. Donohue."
Donohue specializes in helping professional athletes cope with the stresses of playing in the NBA and dealing with unruly fans.
"My goal is simple. I help players deal with unruly fans by repeating positive affirmations to themselves. When done enough times they eventually seep into the subconscious."
Other high profile success stories include NBA stars Derrick Rose, Ron Artest and 7'3" Zydrunas Ilgaukas.
"We had Ron Artest tattoo the phrase, 'I like me and that's all that matters' on his left forearm. Before free throws or after hearing a negative comment from the crowd, Artest simply reads his forearm and moves on with the game."
Ilgaukas repeats the line in his native Lithuanian, "I feel joy in every corner of my body" prior to each free throw attempt.
Donohue and his clients will present NBA commissioner David Stern with a proposal to pass new regulations that would require fans to cheer positively for all players regardless of team or circumstance.
Mr. Stern refused comment on this topic until he has fully refused Donohue's proposal.