John Salley: The Best Damn PETA Celebrity Period

Former NBA Champion and jovial sports talk show host John Salley advocates for healthier eating, theorizes why Charles Barkley got so fat and set his terms for posing nude.

You have embarked on a mission to convert Chicago school kids to vegetarianism. Chicago is well known for its steak houses and is a one of the hot dog capitols of the World. What is your strategy going in to this uphill battle?
Uhm, we got canceled today from the [Chicago] school board. They decided not to have us involved. So now we're tying to figure out if we can take 2,000 of the burgers we have to the Boys and Girls Club.

2,000 burgers?
Yeah, we had like 2,000 or something veggie burgers and the [Chicago School Board] decided to cancel like a half an hour before I was supposed to speak. What I want to do is tell people there is an alternative. I'm starting a program now for life enhancement. I see it as my job is to tell people the truth and let them make a decision after.

That's fair enough. When and why did you become a strict vegetarian?
I am a vegan. It took me 15 years to do that. I decided to learn how to better enhance my life, everyone else kept wanting to detox. I was trying to figure out how to live longer. Everybody in my family died of cancer, how I was gonna be the one who escaped that. And then I found out cancer is something that your body develops. Obviously I was gonna give my body food and water and oxygen, the three things that kill disease. When I found out that the foods we were eating weren't foods that came out of the ground -- they were foods that came out of a plant, a factory -- I did even more research. I'm a history guy, and what I found out when we became an industrial country they had to make industrial food. So, they made us addicted, all of us, addicted to sugar, which made us addicted to alcohol, which makes us addicted to cigarettes, which makes us addicted to drugs and then they give you drugs to counteract that, and your life expectancy is short. Everyone thinks at 40 you go downhill at 60 you retire and at 70 you die. That's not necessarily true.

The NBA playoffs are here. Which teams and players do you suspect suffer from excessive meat consumption?
WOW. I would say most of them, if not all of them. Most athletes have no idea how to eat. Most athletes have no idea that they're suffering -- proven fact. When you look at guys with bodies like Charles Barkley, Rich Mahorn, Patrick Ewing -- you see how big Patrick Ewing's gotten? They think when you get older you get fat. That's not true. Not true. So it has to be that they can't develop they can't get rid of the ... (pauses) ... I went to a couple of these guys and told them I would help them. I weighed 249 lbs when I won the NBA championship in 1989. Today, I am 4 lbs heavier than I was 20 years ago, but I went up to 290 I had the high cholesterol and nearing dangerously high blood pressure and everybody in my family has diabetes and all that, fucking bullshit. You don't have to be like that. I was a vegetarian until I realized that -- how can I say -- I don't eat the animal but I eat the things that come out of the animal's ass; the egg. I mean, people eat the spoiled milk of a cow that a calf won't even eat. I mean a cow won't even drink that and I'm feeding it to my kids? That's crazy. So I decided I wasn't doing that. I gave that up.

Now you're working with PETA?
I work along side of them. I work with myself. I started "John Salley Foods" and I've got a couple other people I'm in business with. I did a PSA and PETA liked my message about the food.

Many athletes and celebrities have felt so strongly about the work PETA does that they have posed naked to bring attention to the cause. When will you bare all for the greater glory of vegans?
Their conversation is about animals. My conversation is about health.

So there won't be any Amanda Beard moment for John Salley?
Oh, I would love to show my body off, but when I do I'm gonna get paid for it.