For years now, if you headed to a modern burger joint or gastropub, some pretty good veggie burgers would be on the menu.
Now, however, you don’t have to go to a hipster spot for a good veggie burger. Thanks to big brands such as Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger, you can get a plant-based Whopper at Burger King, or Famous Star at Carl’s Jr., or plant-based tacos at Del Taco, or plant-based sausages at Dunkin’. And the list goes on and on and on, right down to being able to buy plant-based burgers at your local grocery store and cooking them on your own grill.
Plant-based proteins are everywhere — and some NBA players are making a killing off it.
A number of NBA players were early investors in the product, before Beyond Meat went public, something Chris Ballard reports on at Sports Illustrated. These players, already well off, made a killing (so to speak) when the stock price for Beyond Meat opened at $25 a share in May and, as of this writing, was at $140.
Among those fortunate few was a cohort of NBA players; in addition to J.J. Redick, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul, investors included Victor Oladipo, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan, none of whom, it’s safe to say, needed a windfall. Most weren’t in it for the cash; rather, they are both converts and proselytizers. Some, like Paul and Redick, eat both plant and animal protein. Others, like Jordan—who was recently in New York hyping the Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich at Dunkin’ Donuts—have gone, as Redick says, “full vegan on us.”
The NBA connection makes sense, at least in one respect. Today’s players are constantly seeking micro advantages. The Lakers traveled with a bone broth chef at Kobe Bryant’s behest; LeBron James uses cryotherapy. If a plant-based diet really can extend a playing career—as Brown contends and many believe—then reducing meat intake is worth the trade-off.
For the players, this investment works on a few levels.
First, yes they have made a lot of money (not that they were not already wealthy). Second, it ties into a healthy diet, something players are more and more focused on (and a growing number of players, such as Jordan, do not eat meat anymore). Third, plant-based proteins are simply better for the environment, something that generally matters a lot more to people the age of NBA players than it does to people the age of politicians in Washington.
“I think that’s a societal change in that there are a lot of pillars of masculinity that we’re stripping down and have been for the last few years and rightfully so,” says the 35-year-old Redick. “To use a phrase that I don’t often use, the NBA is very much a woke league. It’s at the forefront of a lot of things—training, fashion, food, diet. A lot of things that have happened in a macro way with society [are reflected in] these micro changes in the NBA.”
How healthy these plant-based burgers actually are for you is up for debate (like a beef burger, you probably shouldn’t eat one every day), but it is unquestionably a trend that is not only taking off but also is not going away. For many people, this is an option they want.
Some NBA players just got lucky to make even more money off it.