Posting Up with the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk

Heading into the NBA playoffs this month, Boston’s most popular 7-footer tells us why the team is finally poised to make a run, the best part of being a Celtic, and the secret to eating a burrito in a single bite.

Are you a fan of poutine?

Yeah, I actually loved poutine when I was growing up. It’s just hard to find on the menus here. And they usually use, like, shredded cheese or something.

So you haven’t found any good poutine in Boston?

No, I have not.

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with building an all-history, all-star team. You’re one of the starters. Pick your four teammates.

Well, you have to throw Michael Jordan in, I guess, and you’d probably have to put Shaq in there just because of how dominant he was. I would have to get Steve Nash—when he was playing he was unbelievable. And then maybe I’ll put Larry Bird in there because we’re in Boston and he can really shoot a ball.

Describe Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in three words.

Intelligent, personable, character.

How does he differ from the other coaches you’ve had?

He’s one of the most positive coaches I’ve ever played for. Always. He puts confidence into his players. He’s super smart, and he breaks down an unbelievable amount of game film in areas that you would not think of breaking down. His Xs and Os, his time-out plays—they’re unbelievable. He really cares about the people around him—about their well-being on and off the floor, which is rare sometimes.

Does his positivity lift the spirit of the locker room?

Definitely. A lot of coaches take guys’ confidence away. They’re ripping into you: “You’re terrible, you can’t do this, what are you doing?” Then guys are out there playing scared, and they don’t want to make mistakes. He’s the opposite. He’s given guys confidence.

You pulled a 3.53 GPA at Gonzaga and were working on your MBA before being drafted. If the NBA didn’t pan out, what was the plan?

Well, I got my degree in accounting. I would probably do something in the business world. I like numbers; I like math. I like the business of sports, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities in that.

What’s one notable thing you’ve splurged on since signing an NBA contract?


Where in Boston do you go for sushi?

There’s, like, five of them that I go to. Fuji is really good. Chef Ming there does a great job, and I like it a lot. Empire and Red Lantern are always great. Oishii is really good. I go to this place near BU called Kayuga. It’s open until 2 a.m. The people there are unbelievable.

So how many nights a week do you eat sushi?

Probably like four to five if I get a chance. I like it a lot. It’s my favorite food by far. There are some sushi restaurants that I’ve heard are really good that I haven’t tried yet. I still have to get out there a little more.

But you also have a bit of a reputation for making sushi, right?

When I was younger I lived in Toronto, and on the corner of my street there was a strip mall. When I was in grade, maybe, four, they put in a sushi restaurant. Sushi wasn’t that big back then. So my dad took me there one day and we had it and I loved it, and I loved watching the guy make it. After school I started going; I used to just go and sit there and watch the guy make it. I went a few weeks, maybe four weeks in a row, and one day the restaurant wasn’t too busy, and he asked me if I wanted to learn how to make it. And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to.” He said to come back the next day after school. It was so hard to get through school. I was so excited. And I got there and he told me, “Put on this, go wash your hands,” and he taught me how to roll it out, make it, cut it up, present it. Ever since then I loved it. I make it at home, make it everywhere. I made it at my dorm room in college.

Dorm-room sushi sounds a bit dicey, no?

It’s not bad because all you really need is a rice cooker. Once you have the rice, everything else is easy—just cut up vegetables, roll it up, and make it in the dorm room.

The double-OT game against Golden State on December 11 got me totally hooked on the team this season, even though the C’s lost. You had a monster game with 28 points and three steals. What was that like?

That was a fun game. Obviously, to go into double OT we were playing well, but unfortunately it didn’t go the way we wanted. We can play with the best teams in this league and that just kind of proved it. It was good for us and our confidence—kept us moving forward. It was a lot of fun. The Garden was rocking that night, as it always is.

Do you think there’s a chance that Steph Curry could be a robot sent to destroy the NBA?

Probably. Yeah, definitely.

How does the game change when he’s on the floor?

He kind of just remodeled the game of basketball in terms of being 6-foot-3 or whatever. He’s not the strongest guy, the quickest guy, the most athletic. He doesn’t have the longest arms. You see his body type, and it’s like 50 percent of Americans have the same size and stature as him, so it’s kind of just revitalized the way the game is and how it can be played. His ability to shoot the ball and handle the ball is unbelievable. I think he really helps kids keep aspiring and keep dreaming to be something. Not everyone has to have Kevin Durant–length arms or LeBron’s athleticism or be 7 feet tall.

You’re big on charity work with kids. What’s their impression of a big 7-footer like you?

Kids are just special—their smiles and their enthusiasm, their aura, and their excitement. When you can get away with them for an hour or two, wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing is almost calming and eases you.

If you could change one NBA rule, what would it be?

Technical fouls should count as personal fouls.

What does a successful end to the season look like at this point for you guys?

We’re actively chasing the home-court advantage. If we’re in the playoffs and playing at home, I think we’ll have a good end run. Once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen and you just go from there.

Finally, someone from the team told me you recently ate an entire burrito in a single bite. True?

Yeah. The funny thing that people don’t know is I did the same thing my rookie year in three bites. Rajon Rondo told me I couldn’t do it, so I did. The first one was at Chipotle, I think. The problem is that people don’t understand how big this burrito was. Like when you go into the burrito line they ask you, “Brown or white rice?” “Both.” “Black or pinto beans?” “Both.” Vegetables, and then you go through and you have your meat—I chose two, steak and chicken. Plus two scoops of tomatoes and, of course, guac. I don’t usually do sour cream and cheese just to keep it a little bit healthy. Usually they can’t even wrap it, so it’ll kind of explode, so I have to get it double wrapped. Basically it was two burritos in four bites.