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."

When he sat down with Elysabeth Alfano during her interview series Awesome Vegans, Salley was more than enthusiastic about his plant-based lifestyle and wore a Nasty Vegan t-shirt.

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.” 

For the full interview with John Salley, click here. To watch and listen to other vegan celebrity interviews with Elysabeth Alfano on her Awesome Vegans Influencer Series, go here.

Elysabeth Alfano is a plant-based expert for mainstream media, covering the plant-based health, food, business, and environmental news for the general public.

Sandra Oh and 20 Others It Might Surprise You to Learn Are Plant-Based

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1. Paul McCartney

Sir James Paul McCartney is no stranger to a meat-free life as he's been vegetarian for 45 years. He initially went vegetarian in 1975 with his first wife Linda McCartney and began his advocacy for animal rights.

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2. Sia

If you find yourself constantly singing along to the song The Greatest, then you're already a Sia fan. Sia tweeted that she is "fully vegan now" back in 2014 and stays true to her word

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3. Sandra Oh

Way back at the start of Grey's Anatomy, Sandra Oh took the cast out for a plant-based lunch at Truly Vegan in Hollywood. In her effort to inspire contemporaries to eat vegan, the TV star is known to invite her friends for vegan meals that are delicious. She adopted the vegan lifestyle years ago and continues to quietly live a cruelty-free life.

4. Gisele Bündchen

Giselle revealed that when she was at the peak of her modeling career, her diet consisted of "cigarettes, wine, and mocha Frappuccinos," according to an interview in People Magazine. Now 39 and the mother of two children, Gisele eats a "mostly" plant-based diet to nourish her body and stay fueled.

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5. Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has made a bigger commitment to plant-based eating since he was first told by doctors that he was pre-diabetic and needed to change his diet. That was decades ago. But, over the last few years, he's been vocal about the benefits not only to his health but also the impact plant-based eating has on the environment.

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6. Miley Cyrus

Miley adopted a gluten-free diet back in 2012 for health reasons and two years later, committed to a vegan diet she still lives by today.


7. Pamela Anderson

We all remember Pamela Anderson as the curvaceous blonde in the hit series Baywatch as she played Casey Jean in the red one-piece swimsuit that brought her world-class fame. She is a life-long active animal rights advocate and teamed up with PETA to join the Animal Protection Organization.

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8. Kristen Stewart

"We shouldn't eat as much meat guys," Kristen Stewart told GQ in an interview in January. The Twilight star has made a full 180 from vampire to vegan. When she appeared on the game show "Hot Ones" she chose to skip the wings and instead compete by eating increasing spicier sauce on vegan cauliflower wings.


9. Jared Leto

This award-winning actor eats a high-protein diet consisting of only plants. Leto, who has been plant-based for 20 years, says it keeps him "shredded" in an interview. Now, 48, Leto looks half his age.


10. Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith switched up his diet from vegan to vegetarian, meaning that he doesn't eat meat but does eat dairy from time to time. In a recent article by Plant Based News, Smith admits he skipped meals and was not getting the proper nutrition when he was vegan, but this hasn't stopped him from espousing the plant-based life.

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11. Meghan Markle

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has never admitted to being fully vegan, but sources say, she eats a plant-based diet most days during the week. She is teaching Prince Harry vegan cooking and in a Plant-Based News article, Markle explained how she hopes to raise baby Archie on a mostly vegan diet.

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12. Serena Williams

As a professional athlete, fueling the body is a key factor to Willaim's successes. In a Bon Appetite article, she explained that she adopted a plant-based diet back in 2012, she was eating a lot "healthier" for her sister, Venus, who eats a strict vegan diet for health reasons.

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13. John Mackey

The popular grocery store, Whole Foods Market sells vegan products and nonvegan products which arises black lash from ethical vegans as CEO John Mackey follows a strict vegan diet. The successful businessman grew up in Houston Texas and told Business Insider that he would traditionally eat processed foods for dinner while watching TV with his family. Now, Mackey steers clear from the processed isle and eats a clean vegan diet and feels amazing at the age of 65.

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14. Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz, singer of the popular song, I'm Yours, committed to a vegan diet to support his friend diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Mraz says he eats mostly raw food and told magazine sources his favorite vegan dish is "Chocomole, a mixture of avocados, dates, cacao, agave nectar, and coconut oil."


15. Leona Lewis

Long time vegan, Leona Lewis grew up in a vegan household and continues to eat a plant-based diet. Lewis first adopted the diet at 12 when she learned about the health risks of eating animal products but told Women's Health Magazine she occasionally eats an omelet. She also mentioned her 2:30 lunch is normally a kale salad topped with dried cranberries and she loves a veggie stir-fry for dinner.


16. Hannah Teter

Hannah Teter changed her diet after watching the documentary, Earthlings when she discovered how "horrible" factory farming is. After a strict vegetarian diet, Teter liked the way she performed as an athlete and believes that her diet helped her win gold at the 2006 games.


17. Maggie Q,

You may recognize Maggie Q as the star of the Nikita series, but in the plant-based world, she's well-known for her heroic activism. Maggie Q has followed a strict vegan diet for 19 years, making her a true veteran of the lifestyle. She made the plant-based diet transition because she felt sluggish and had low energy, she has said. The famous actress keeps in shape by eating veggies and plant-based protein and working out with a passion.

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18. Madelaine Petsch,

Winner of the first Masterchef vegan cook-off with Gordon Ramsay, Madelaine Petsch was raised vegetarian and went completely vegan at age 14. She claims that she started this diet before it was "trendy" and shot a campaign for PETA last year wearing a dress made of bok choy. Petsch says her vegan diet allows her to feel "healthier" and not "lethargic."

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19. Millie Bobbi Brown

After doing a little sleuthing on her social media platforms we think Millie Bobbi Brown qualifies as plant-based. Whether or not she is actually skipping all meat and dairy, one thing is for sure: She eats mostly salads, vegetables and grains and lives a predominantly plant-based lifestyle full of healthy foods.


20. Chloe and Halle Bailey

The grammy-nominated sisters went vegan for a week with their mom but liked it so much they decided to stick with it. For one thing, it helps keep their "voices in shape" by eating a vegan diet and they emphasize the fact that dairy helps to limit extra mucus build-up, according to a PETA interview.

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21. Hilary Duff

Best known for her role as Lizzie Mcguire in the long-running series, Hilary Duff is a recent vegan advocate and entrepreneur. She recently launched the vegan and cruelty-free eyeshadow palette, "Day Dreamer" and changed her diet to plant-based last fall.