NBA Champ John Salley: “I Work With Brands That Share My Eco Vegan Values”
You're watching The Last Dance on Netflix and night after night the former NBA players let us into their secrets for their success, the teamwork that made the magic happen, and what it is that sets them apart from their fellow players. For NBA legend John Salley, it is all about kindness on the plate.
The first player to win three Championships with three different teams, Sally, 6'11," played both power forward and center for the Detroit Pistons, the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors, the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a long-time host of the former Fox show The Best Damn Sports Show Period. Sally is a vegan activist, chef, and wellness entrepreneur.
Salley told an interviewer back in 2015 that he eats a plant-based diet, but was not always so pure about his approach. During the early 1990s, while still playing, he admitted that he was a "lying" vegetarian since he occasionally ate shrimp and fish. He took fish oil and was macrobiotic and played the large part of his NBA career as a vegetarian, albeit loosely.
As of five years ago he said: "My current diet is a plant-based diet. It is not only plant-based, it’s almost raw. I have eliminated a lot of oils out of my diet. I have eliminated as much olive oil as possible.... Mostly the vegan food I’m eating, the cooked food, is just cooked vegetables a little bit over 118 (degrees F). I’m at the point where I am making my own food as much as possible."
In this interview, the nearly seven-foot-tall, three-time NBA champ shared his life approach and his personal tips for staying strong, healthy and "at peace" with yourself.
Here is the takeaway from that encounter:
1. Humor is a Good Way to Get Your Point Across.
EA: What do you tell the veg-curious when they ask about protein?
JS: “I was talking to this 800-pound gorilla and … how could you be the strongest thing in the jungle and you only eat vegetables?’” Grazing on raw veggies is where gorillas get their protein from…and so can you!"
EA: It's a bit of a mic drop, but it’s true: Protein doesn’t come from animals. Protein comes from the plants which were eaten by animals. And as we know, reducing meat and increasing plant-based proteins is a healthier way to go. But in case you doubt it, let Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School be your guide "A diet with any type of meat raises the risk of heart disease and cancer when compared with a vegetarian diet," says cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a Harvard Medical School professor and editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter.
2. Obsessed With Protein? Get Over It! Ask, Where do You Get Your Fiber?
JS: As Americans, we are obsessed with protein and, ‘Where do you get your protein?’ is the number one question that John receives about his vegan diet. We really don’t need as much protein as you think. We need fiber. So when you ask me where do you get your protein, I ask you where do you get your fiber? And if you don’t know where you get your fiber, then you should worry about that, because we are fiber deficient.”
EA: In fact, that's the cause of a lot of disease.
JS: Dis-Ease. Phil Jackson teaches it that way. There is "ease" and dis-ease."
EA: I like that. The recommended amount of fiber we should get is 30-40 grams daily, while most Americans only get 10-15 grams, according to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. To add insult to injury, contrary to popular belief, meat does not have any fiber! Fiber can help with weight loss and cancer prevention and is key to a healthy diet.
John reminds us that when we take care of our bodies, we live with ease, rather than dis-ease, a lesson he learned from famed Chicago Bulls Coach and fellow Last Dance Star, Phil Jackson.
3. Live in Alignment With Your Values.
JS: "I found out a while time ago, a great way of looking at things is: Don't fight the machine. Just build a new and better more efficient machine. So I just do what I do. So everything I do, all the companies I work with, all the plans, align with my eco-vegan live-and-let-live mentally. So if they don't I don't talk against them. I just stay focused on what I'm doing."
ES: Being dedicated to his principals and embodying his vegan philosophy in all that he does is key to John’s peace of mind. In working on his many entrepreneurial ventures, he says, “they all stay in line with my eco, vegan, live-and-let-live mentality.” By staying true to his values and beliefs, John is a bit of a zen-master, preferring to let actions speak louder than words.
Salley explains, “I was a preacher… (At first) I was like ‘You got to do this and save your soul,’ and then, I was a teacher and I was like ‘I told you this, now here’s a test…’ Now I’m just a sage. I’m just going to tell you what it is, show you what it is, and live by example - live and let live.”
Elysabeth Alfano is a plant-based expert for mainstream media, covering the plant-based health, food, business, and environmental news for the general public.