Veganism is growing in popularity among athletes nowadays as a number of the world’s greatest athletic performers have turned to the practice of consuming a plant-based diet as opposed to conventional eating.
A documentary from 2019 called The Game Changers brought even more to the fore where veganism and sports are related, showcasing various athletes who participate in the most strenuous of disciplines all while avoiding animal products.
The diet is becoming a thing in the NBA, albeit more slowly as many pros are known for their love of food such as burgers, tacos, pizza, and chicken wings. In recent years, though, some of the league’s biggest superstars have turned to veganism as a means of turning back the clock and boosting their ability to perform at the highest level.
Today’s game requires more speed and stamina given the spacing system many teams employ. Players need to be able to defend from the perimeter as more threes are being shot than ever before. Teams are also playing much faster, pushing the ball up the floor as quickly as they can, making optimal fitness non-negotiable.
As mentioned above, a number of notable league figures have become vegan. Below are five of the most popular.
The Brooklyn Nets star would probably be anyone’s first guess. Undoubtedly the most skillful player in the NBA, the point guard is also the most controversial – think back to his flat earth statement. It stands to reason he would choose to be a vegan.
After requesting to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving decided to change his diet in an effort to trim down ahead of his first season with the Boston Celtics. The change certainly paid off as the seven-time NBA All-Star led his new team to 13 wins in their first 15 games.
Unfortunately, Kyrie would end his season early due to injury. He now plies his trade in Brooklyn alongside another vegan teammate mentioned below – they’re both involved with Beyond Meat. Former Nets players Wilson Chandler and Garrett Temple are also vegan.
While he’s been unfortunate to suffer a number of injuries since then, going vegan has boosted Kyrie’s play on an energetic level. When healthy, he’s arguably the most unstoppable player in the league and can single-handedly determine how lucky you are with your NBA spreads.
The Portland Trail Blazers guard is the most clutch player in the NBA and boasts one of the longest shooting ranges therein. He can shoot the basketball pretty comfortably from halfcourt and has earned the nickname “Logo Lillard” for his ability to sink shots from around the center-court logo.
Lillard is another popular vegan athlete, having taken up the diet in an attempt to shed pounds but has since come to terms with the other health benefits.
“[I’ve been] wanting to eat cleaner,” he told The Oregonian after switching his diet. “I was trying to play lighter this year, be easier on my joints and on my feet…. I feel much better. I thought it was all hype. I thought people just said it just because it was healthier food, but I can feel it. I can definitely feel it.”
Lillard is no longer on a strict vegetarian diet, however, having revealed he lost too much weight and is now mixing it up.
Chris Paul underwent a renaissance last year, returning to some high-level play with the Oklahoma City Thunder and returning to the All-Star realms as a result. Now with the Phoenix Suns, the point guard is one of the biggest reasons the Suns were second in the Western Conference at the time of writing.
Paul’s game had dropped during his last year with the Houston Rockets, leading to the team trading him. He would make a change to his diet, switching to plant-based, and the result has been incredible. As mentioned above, the veteran guard is an All-Star again and is back to being one of the best point guards in the league.
Another player whose career had hit a wall, JaVale McGee was close to either retiring or playing overseas after a modest role with the Dallas Mavericks. A switch to veganism prompted a remarkable turnaround as the center got a non-guaranteed deal with the Golden State Warriors, where he would win two NBA Championships while playing solid minutes. His performances during his first season with the Dubs saw him earn another contract.
McGee is now a three-time Champion, having moved to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018. He became a key part of the rotation there, playing the best basketball of his career on a numbers front in his first term in L.A. He has since moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers but could be on the move again soon, with the trade deadline looming.
Yup, DeAndre Jordan is that teammate we referred to above. One of the highest-leaping stars of the modern era, Jordan was part of the “Lob City” Los Angeles Clippers back in the day. Now 32, he can still get up there to catch lobs and you can bet his vegan diet is one of the main reasons.
The center is also an animal rights supporter, as well as an investor in Beyond Meat. Jordan was also one of the high-profile attendees at the premiere of the aforementioned The Game Changers.
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