Go to the main content Menu
Back
John Salley
Photo courtesy of John Salley
Interview
Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell

From NBA Star to Vegan Business Owner, Actor, and Activist: An Interview with John Salley

If you aren’t already a fan of John Salley, you will be after reading this interview!

Standing at 6’11”, former Detroit Pistons “bad boy” John Salley may seem intimidating, but IRL, he’s a down-to-earth, compassionate vegan with dedication and drive like no other. After playing with five NBA teams, Salley went on to host TV shows like The Best Damn Sports Show Period, act in films (most recently, Disney’s Sneakerella), speak at vegan festivals, and partner with several vegan businesses. Keep reading to learn how John Salley went from winning NBA championships to running a vegan empire and starring on the big screen!

VegOut (VO): When and why did you first transition to a plant-based diet?

John Salley (JS): It was in 1991. Dr. Jewel Pookrum said, “You’re full of sh*t.” I said, “Excuse me?” She said, “Literally, you’re full of sh*t. So we’re gonna start by giving you a colonic, and then we’re gonna change what you eat.” From 1991 to around 2007, I was a lying vegetarian. I ate mostly vegetarian and macrobiotic but I still had foods like turkey burgers and cheese.

VO: So you officially went vegan in the 2000s. What led you to that decision?

JS: As PETA and Mercy For Animals brought me in [for PSAs and promotional videos], I talked about [veganism] all the time—“These guys gotta stop eating steak, they gotta stop eating cheeseburgers”—but I was still eating turkey burgers. One time, I did a PSA for PETA and my friend and assistant said, “The food in the back is off the chain!” I went back there and started grubbing, and the PETA team told me it was all vegan. That day, I went home and told everyone I went vegan.

VO: Did you notice a difference in your performance on the court when you made the change to a vegan diet?

JS: I went from 235 pounds with pimples on my head, smelly feet, lower back pain, knee pain, and a bad attitude to 219 pounds, and I was running faster, jumping higher, my face cleared up, my body odor was gone—everything was different.

VO: What inspired you to start experimenting in the kitchen with vegan recipes? Do you have any favorites you can share with us?

JS: My mother was a kosher caterer who was born in 1923. Almost everything I had growing up was from scratch, and I always liked cooking. When I went vegan, I had to [cook] because there was nothing out there, and to me, the vegan food tasted like styrofoam with barbecue sauce. I like to make Bolognese, penne arrabbiata, pasta with cheese, and a kale salad. My kale salad takes me an hour. I literally pull all of the veins out, then I massage it and add a champagne vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar, moringa, turmeric, guanabana, carrots, white onion, and a little grapeseed oil.

VO: You get so many comments about how young you look. How do you respond?

JS: When you buy a car, you don’t expect it to get fat. You don’t expect the tires to give out. Some color maybe, you may have a dent. Your body is not going to change. So that’s the way I look at it. This is a race car, and I keep it a race car.

VO: How has your approach to spreading veganism changed over the years?

JS: I realized that if you wake people up and shake them hard, they get mad. But if you gently wake them up and give them something to taste, they’re more open. So I started waking up people nicely. First I started as a preacher, then a teacher, then a sage.

VO: After you left the NBA, you got into TV hosting and acting. How did those ventures come about?

JS: In ‘89, I started on television. Magic used to laugh and say, “This has been John’s plan!” Because I used to tell him, “I’m gonna play in the NBA and become famous and then I’m gonna go on TV and be like Johnny Carson.” In ‘97, I started doing sitcoms and was like, “Well, I already did Bad Boys and Eddie, I think I’m gonna act.” Because I always wanted to. So I started acting. And then I got on NBC talking about sports. After that, I got The Best Damn Sports Show Period.

VO: You have quite the resume now! What was it about acting that fascinated you so much?

JS: Growing up, going to the movies was my thing. And when I was playing in the NBA, to stop me from going out, I would go to acting class. I had one of the greatest acting coaches, Ivana Chubbuck. I’d sit next to her every Wednesday. The more I worked on the craft, the more respect I had for it. I love the process.

VO: Most recently, you announced that you’re creating your own show. What inspired that?

JS: I just kept realizing that I was always getting a show, and not getting a show. Getting a movie, and not getting a movie. I don’t want to do that anymore. At this time, this show I’m making is an NFT and it’s a hell of a shot but it’s my chance to make the show I want to make.

VO: You’re currently involved in several amazing vegan businesses and organizations. What are they and how did the opportunities come about?

JS: When I started as a born-again vegan, I got into The Vegan Vine and learned the wine business. Through that, I worked with a vegan cheese company from Greece and started speaking at vegan festivals all over the country, [first] at VegFest in Michigan. We went from being inside a junior high school to being in a convention center. When I did the PSA for PETA, they told me about this vegan restaurant in Tarzana called Madeleine Bistro—I lived literally a mile away from it. That’s how I met Dave Anderson of Beyond Meat, [which I joined as an original investor in 2009]. In 2020, [the Cafe Organix team] came to me and asked me to [join their founding team and] check out this location they were looking into. I drove up and the address was 420 E. Hospitality Lane, and I said, “Take it!” In 2020, PETA gave me the Humanitarian Award, and they put me with Maya from Maya’s Cookies. Maya said, “I think you can help me.” Six months later, we got the contract, [and now I’m working with them as an advisor.]

VO: You also co-own the cannabis brand Deuces22 with your daughter, Tyla Milan. How did that come about? And what’s it like to run a business with your daughter?

JS: She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met—and I’ve met a lot of people. She told me, “If you want to invest in my future, college is going to cost thousands of dollars. We should put that into what I really want to do.”

VO: What is something you wish more people knew about being a business owner?

JS: Everyone talks about money. Money is not an obstacle. You don’t need money to start a business—you need an idea. The idea has to be worth your energy and time. If it’s a good idea, people will give you the money.

VO: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

JS: Watch the John Salley Crypto Show!

To stay updated on John Salley’s happenings, visit JohnSalley.com, JohnSalleyCryptoShow.com, and follow @johnsalley on Instagram.

Allie Mitchell

@alliemitch

When Allie responded to an Instagram post on @vegoutlosangeles a few years ago, she had no idea she’d join the coolest vegan team on the planet. An Austin native, actress, yogi, and part-time sword fighter (don’t ask!), Allie is on a mission to live her best life and inspire others to do the same. She graduated from Hussian College In Studio with a B.F.A. in Contemporary Musical Theatre + Film and currently acts, writes, and eats her way through Los Angeles.

Must-have products: MUSH Overnight Oats, Califia Farms Creamer, HURRAW! Lip Balm, Facial Lounge Feather-Light Miracle Moisturizer

Articles by Allie
Allie Mitchell

More from VegOut

See the article the best vegan restaurants in florida

The Best Vegan Restaurants in Florida

From the Panhandle to the big city, Florida is a hot spot for plant-based eats.

Allison van Tilborgh Allison van Tilborgh
Love Life Cafe
Food & Drink
See the article 10 best vegan restaurants for a date night in la

10 Best Vegan Restaurants for a Date Night in LA

There are only green flags at these vegan eateries!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Avant Garden Bistro
Food & Drink
See the article vegan baked goods that ship nationwide for the holidays

Vegan Baked Goods That Ship Nationwide for the Holidays

From Hanukkah bundt cakes and Christmas cookies to gingerbread house kits, this list covers it all!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Dear Bella Creamery
Food & Drink
See the article our 5 secret ingredients for vegan holiday cooking

Our 5 Secret Ingredients for Vegan Holiday Cooking

Add these products to your plant-based recipes this holiday season!

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Bragg
Sponsored Food & Drink
See the article prados beauty celebrates indigenous beauty and resilience

Prados Beauty Celebrates Indigenous Beauty and Resilience

Founder Cece Meadows puts Indigenous voices at the forefront of the beauty industry.

Alejandra Tolley Alejandra Tolley
Prados Beauty
Fashion & Beauty
See the article 8 vegan sweaters to keep you warm this winter

8 Vegan Sweaters to Keep You Warm This Winter

We’re staying warm this season with these vegan styles!

Tammie Ortlieb Tammie Ortlieb
Will's Vegan Store
Fashion & Beauty
See the article 10 vegan chocolate chip brands perfect for baking

10 Vegan Chocolate Chip Brands Perfect for Baking

These dairy-free chocolate chips were made for cookies, waffles, muffins, and more.

Anja Grommons Anja Grommons
Pascha Chocolate
Food & Drink
See the article 12 vegan beauty gifts to shop this holiday season

12 Vegan Beauty Gifts to Shop This Holiday Season

Deck the halls with boughs of vegan beauty gifts!

Alejandra Tolley Alejandra Tolley
Fleur & Bee
Fashion & Beauty
See the article sustainably and carefully sourced ingredients set this native american-owned vegan bakery apart

Sustainably and Carefully Sourced Ingredients Set This Native American-Owned Vegan Bakery Apart

Place an order from Wholesome Bakery in honor of Native American Heritage Month!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Wholesome Bakery
Food & Drink
See the article 8 vegan bakeries in los angeles

8 Vegan Bakeries in Los Angeles

Stock up for the holidays at these sweet stops!

Allie Mitchell Allie Mitchell
Just What I Kneaded
Food & Drink Los Angeles
See the article 11 best cruelty-free, vegan laundry detergents

11 Best Cruelty-Free, Vegan Laundry Detergents

Elevate your laundry day with these plant-based brands.

Tammie Ortlieb Tammie Ortlieb
Seventh Generation
Shopping
See the article pomona’s first all-vegetarian spot borreguitas serves traditional mexican dishes

Pomona’s First All-Vegetarian Spot Borreguitas Serves Traditional Mexican Dishes

This powerful story highlights how the Torres family turned their 15-year-old restaurant into Pomona’s first vegetarian spot!

Alejandra Tolley Alejandra Tolley
Borreguitas
Food & Drink Los Angeles

Newsletter

We’ll keep you updated on new information,
upcoming events, and the best deals in your area.

By signing up you agree to receive emails from VegOut Magazine
and accept our terms of use, privacy policy, and cookie policy.

Subscribe Now

Get the latest in plant-based news, entertainment, and lifestyle delivered straight to your door (or inbox!)
Order the magazine!

Navigation

Subscribe Now

Order the magazine!
Close

Filters

Cities

The Most

Writer

Test

Test 2

ddd