The NBA can be a pretty testosterone driven world — and in that world men eat meat. Lots of it. Maybe boiled chicken breasts, maybe steaks, Kobe Bryant mixes in the odd In-n-Out burger as his vice (which is better than 5 Guys, but that’s another debate for another day).
But there are vegetarians in the NBA (players who do not eat meat). Amar’e Stoudemire may be the most prominent, but there also is James Jones (who is vegan) and Glen Davis. Even Carmelo Anthony will go vegetarian for stretches to help control his weight in season.
Then there is John Salley, the former Pistons Bad Boy and current sports talk personality, who has taken the next step and is vegan (he does not use or ingest animal products, so for example no cheese, yogurt or eggs). He talked about that change and why he did it, speaking with Ethan Sherwood Strauss in a fascinating interview at TrueHoop.
The first question was did Salley switch to veganism for health reasons?
Yeah. When Wilt Chamberlain died. Any kind of blockage is heart disease; when you have a blood clot anywhere, that’s heart disease. When Wilt Chamberlain died, strongest man I ever met in my life, I started paying attention.
A lot of players learn later in their career about diet. Ray Allen told PBT he changed his diet around after a trip to a McDonald’s in college before a practice. He said he felt sluggish and after that changed his diet around, but a lot of players don’t do that until their mid-to-late 20s (if ever).
Salley switched to vegetarianism (not veganism) while playing and talked about that and if he had been Vegas while playing.
Oh my God, if I was a vegan when I should have done this thing, man? I remember when I became a vegetarian and my game changed. I couldn’t imagine if I was a vegan back when I was playing. The thing about the NBA, any pro sport, is, guys don’t know how to take care of their body.
It’s funny. They got trainers around to help them lift weights, throw all this weight up, parachutes. All this other crazy stuff. But they don’t have guys who say, “Hey. This is how you take care of your body.”
It’s a challenge for a player, because they have to take in a lot of calories due to the energy they expend, and meat is a fast way to those calories. It takes a lot more thought and care to be vegetarian on a road trip. A lot of players move to leaner meats and vegetables as they get older and try to take care of themselves, shunning bad eating habits like fast food they had in their youth.
But when you see athletes like Serena Williams bounce back from career-threatening health issues thanks in part to veganism, you know that other athletes are going to take a look at it.