By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Basketball personalities don't come much bigger than John 'The Spider' Salley...and that isn't some awful pun. As a player the Georgia Tech blocks leader retired his college jersey and entered the NBA draft at number 11. He then became a member of the famed 'Bad Boys' Detroit Pistons championship squad and a vital cog in the Piston machines assembly line, stepping his way to history in Motown. Sound good? Well then as a veteran he won rings with Phil Jackson for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, serving as a great presence off the bench and in the locker-room to some teammates you may have heard of like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. After retiring with his own dubbed place in history as the man with, "four championship rings, with three different teams, in three different decades and two different millenniums", Salley broadcasted his post career as a presenter of quite literally 'The Best Damn Sports Show Period', which set a standard and is missed as much as it is replicated today. The former Bad Boy who was in both 'Bad Boys' films with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence isn't just known for balling and acting. Today the well being activist is out there adopting and promoting a healthy vegan lifestyle to everyone that will lay table with him, not just athletes. Changing the game one plate at a time and this man making dishes wasn't known for his assists. The mans even got his own sauce and wine. So let's raise a glass and spread some sauce with a friend of our blog who kindly agreed to sit down with us for a candid interview. Let's go catch a spider...
John Salley: Alright brother. First of all thank you for having me. Well I think its very important that an athlete feeds his avatar with what it needs to perform at the highest level and to get muscles to do what they do and to get the body to respond in so many different ways that aren't sometimes I guess conducive to the human body. You have to makes sure that your locomotive has the right amount of coal. You're not going to throw fish or bad things into a locomotive and expect it to to go fast. You have to give it the fuel it uses to power the engine and when all these people are eating animal flesh and thinking that powers your engine. I always say to people, "how can it help you if its dead and not freshly dead, like a lion or a tiger or some predator, but something that's been dead for a long time. I mean how can rigor-mortis give you energy"?
24/48/82: Although not a vegan, your teammate Robert Parish was a vegetarian and ate right to the benefit of a 20 year career, how important is it for first hand energy and longevity for players to consume the right things? Michael Jordan may have a steak house in New York but maybe the Knicks should steer clear of there. Guys like Carmelo Anthony could benefit from your advice.
J.S.: Well the deal is, Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the two reasons I became a vegetarian fully in the first place. They where the first ones I saw and I was 27 at the time and there was an article about Robert Parish and one of his martial art forms and I remember playing against this guy and asking him how he was running up and down the court with me and I was in my twenties. He said, "you have to learn to pace yourself young fella". He didn't tell me about veganism I had to learn that and in doing that I also learned a lot of guys don't eat before they play because they want to stay light. Then I would go, "well then your car has no gas" and I thought about that. So at 27 I made the change.
24/48/82: Do you think if you had become a Vegan in your playing career it may have benefited you?
Yeah, I mean I wanted to play to 40 as well. I mean I had a good career but Robert Parish had a view to look at stats and a better career. If I would have known how to take care of my body when I was 21 then I would have played until I was 40 as well. I just presented my system to Doc Rivers and Byron Scott. I said, "you have to let me talk to your players before the season starts"! I remember when I was in Miami, guys where bringing fast food onto the jet, ordering it from the plane and these where all-stars wondering why they wouldn't last longer in the league. Now to see LeBron smart enough to cut carbs out of his diet. It's a start, but it's a process. It's about getting to these guys, making them realise the more fibre they have the longer they'll last and the better they'll play.
24/48/82: This sort of dieting could help someone like Kobe's career last longer if he starts snacking with you.
When I was in China they call poor food vegetables and rich food meat, because people have more money to afford it. So with that being the attitude it's kind of hard to get these guys to agree with anything. I'm doing a new show and before I could tell you where the steak houses, the strip joints and the nightclubs in every city we play in but I couldn't tell you anything more about the city and now when I go places I found out where all the vegan places are and I kind of test them and put them on my Instagram (24/48/82: @thejohnsalley check it out) just to keep us up to par.
24/48/82: What are among your favourite vegan recipes or those you feel are easy for weary newcomers to pick up from meals on the go to romantic nights in?
One of the first things-and people don't always understand why I go this route-is I act like I'm getting rid of vampires. So I don't give them humans to eat instead I give them a blood supplement. I send the flesh eaters over to Gardine and I love Field Rose. So Field Rose is a grain meat that you can get in whole foods here. I don't know how they sell it outside the country and its in a sausage form. It's in a low form and when you eat it, a lot of people when they see the middle portion and don't see flesh they don't think they're eating meat. I believe in giving them Field Rose which is just like there eating meat. Or they get Gardine which is like fish-sticks and hamburgers and hot dogs (Field Rose has hot dogs too) and I put them in potato bread and I put really good organic mustard on. So I did this with my daughters, they where making pasta using rice Parmesan cheese and making sure I used organic sauce. In doing that they get the same taste and one thing I tell them is, "you don't want to feel like you're eating at the small table at thanksgiving. You want to feel like you're eating the same meal". I serve this to people, I do this all the time and they're eating and when they finish I go, "how did you enjoy your vegan meal". I remember Vivica Fox was at my house and she was like, "that wasn't turkey"?! She goes, "what did you feed me?! And I go, "you didn't say that when I told you it was turkey, but you really don't know if its turkey". And so I said, "I gave you the taste, but you're going to leave here and have fibre and go to the bathroom in the morning. If you went and had thanksgiving somewhere else you'd be asleep for three days". So I bring it in that way. I bring it in with 'it looks the same' and I then I take them to a place called 'Native Foods' here in California and there's six other places, like Chicago and it's going to go throughout the country, because it looks like its fast food. They've got the bread. They've got the sauces, but when they finish it they go, "man I'm full" and they don't realise they eating things the body can process even though its processed food the body can break this down.
24/48/82: I love L.A., but I have two friends that aren't interested much in the city but want to go to L.A. purely because it's known as one of the best places for vegan food.
(Shakes Head) No, Portland Oregon. I went to a place called 'Portabello's' which is Italian with vegan food, which sounds like an oxymoron. It was the best pizza I've had since eating cheese from an animal. It was unbelievable. If you look at my Instagram you'll see the picture. I don't believe it, they've just started carrying my wine in Portland. Vegan Vine Wine is on its way up!
24/48/82: Yeah we where going to ask about the 'Vegan Vine Wine' and we saw on the Racheal Ray show that you brought out you're own sauce. Could you tell us a bit more about a few of you're products?
Yeah I have a series of products. I started working with a company called 'Ultimate Super Foods' and the product is called 'Ojio' and in Ojio we have 110 skews of raw, organic nutritiously dense foods and things to cook with. I got the Vegan Vine Wine which goes into the Whole Foods, California starting October. I'm working with a guy called Joe's Patty's, who has a great patty that you literally add water to and you put it together, freeze it for a second and then you cook it and it cooks and tastes like a hamburger but its grain. It's oats. I'm working with Destiny and Biscotto now. I keep going in with the alcohol. The reason I go in with the beverage is once you get people to taste they go, "oh" and then you say, "that's vegan" and they say, "that's vegan"?! And then I get them into the conversation and then you have them taste the food and I go, "you're eating everything that's alive, nothing dead" and that makes a difference. I'm working on a product called 'Fearless Beer' which is a vegan beer. It's a Scottish ale out of Portland. I got these bags, literally called Pcider. They are made of silicone. So everything I'm doing is being cool and forward thinking, but when you get down to it it's my way of stopping animals from being murdered. 75, 000 land animals per vegan that's what it comes out too. So I work with my fork and my dollar makes all the difference.
24/48/82: Being born and raised in Brooklyn what was the hoops scene like there when you grew up and how good is it to finally see a pro ball team in the B.K.?
When you came from Brooklyn man. When I was growing up it was World B. Free, Fly Williams, Bernard King, Pearl Washington, John Salley, Sid Greene. It was a bunch of 'cats out of Brooklyn and so that was the thing you had to use the ball to get out the hood. Now when I go to Brooklyn it looks like the place is cleaned up and I went by the Brooklyn Nets arena and it looked like a spaceship had landed in Brooklyn man. It's an unbelievable view from being a desolate ghetto type mentality to turning to a beautiful metropolis.
24/48/82: Being a Springsteen fan though I love New Jersey, what do you think about host cities like that and teams that have lost their franchises over the years? I mean the Seattle Supersonics had a beautiful franchise and now its gone. Do we need to talk more expansion here before we look abroad or should we keep it small and focussed?
I think the expansion of the NBA to cities like Oklahoma and New Orleans, back in New Orleans, Charlotte, Toronto, Memphis. I think those are great for the brand and as I remember Seattle, great sports town. Didn't support the team. I was in the championship in 1996 against Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, but the city didn't want to build a new arena. This world is moving, where you have to have more conveniences and more high-price digs. So they didn't want to be involved in that and the owners found a situation down in Oklahoma and we saw that if you put the right team together with the right mentality you can win. It doesn't make a difference where you are. San Antonio! So with that mentality I think the people out in Seattle missed out on something. You know they're happy with their baseball team and they're happy with their football team being world champions but now with a group talking about bringing the Supersonics back. Literally with the old name the Supersonics, that makes a difference and now the people around realise that they are in control of their entertainment as much as the owner. So if the owner is not going to make any money, there's no reason to stay in that town. I think now they are more apt to build an arena and build their sports franchise because they realise how much money it brings to the city from restaurants into making you a complete city. So the people who missed out on it now understand the power. With the Clippers selling for $2 billion from a guy from Microsoft from Seattle. I mean they have the money here. They just need to raise the stakes of the NBA and taking the brand to a different look. As far as going abroad concerned I agree with you. I think this being the place that you have to come and play NBA basketball makes it that much more attractive. The fact that the NBA players come from different countries, 87 players or more is enticing and promising.
24/48/82: College ball is heating up again. Who do you like and what fond memories do you have from your Georgia Tech days, with the blocks record and jersey retirement to being drafted so high?
Well you know I feel sorry for the guy Wiggins because his whole career everyone's telling him how great he is and he gets to the NBA and then he realises he's trade bait. I'm glad when everyone realises they're trade bait. As far as rookies I never pay attention to them. I know that sounds crazy but I know how tough my rookie year was and no matter how good you are, you're not going to be as good as you're going to be in three years so talk to me in three years (smiles).
24/48/82: 'The Teacher', Adrian Dantley certainly was a mentor for you, even helping with nutrition which is your focus today what can you tell us about this somewhat underrated legend and man that makes him a Basketball purists favourite?
Well 'teach' man. I used to always tell the story of how he was like, "what do you want for lunch, I'm buying lunch" and I said, "a hamburger and French fries and a strawberry shake" and this is in Milwaukee. We're playing an exhibition game and he just shook his head and ordered a half sandwich and soup and he said, "bring me another soup and half a sandwich at 4.45". We didn't have to be in the arena 'till 6 and so he ate at 2, he stretched, he talk a small nap, he got up, they brought his food at 4.30, he finished it by 4.40, 4.50, he was already dressed over at the arena getting treatment. By the time everyone had to be there at 6 he had been in treatment and heating his body up and then Jack Sigma, big, slow guy. One of the top 50 players too was beating me up and down the court. I couldn't put the ball in the basket. I was moving slow and A.D. said, "how's that hamburger treating you"? That right there told me, he said, "you can't put that heavy stuff in your body and expect your body to perform. Your body is going to do what its designed to do, digest food, break it down as nourishment and you didn't put any nourishment in your body" and that was what ended it for me. That's what made me able to play 12 years. I only stopped because I wanted to be in television. I was already in my mind successful enough at that juncture in my life, but A.D. man would make sure his body stayed in shape. He still does. His personality wasn't the personality that needed to be in the NBA at that time. At that time you where allowed to be quiet and he was an older cat. Now you know you have to be more vivacious and have more personality in this new world. Or at least have 20, 000 tattoos (24/48/82: My girlfriend could probably play then). One or the other. A.D really helped me in the way I dealt with people and being the best professional I could possibly be
24/48/82: Such a hard worker on defence and terrific teammate what did you feel you brought to the Piston team that set you apart? What was it like being an original 'Bad Boy' and winning those championships in Detroit, especially with the eighties being an era of 'Showtime' and the hard work of Boston too? How was your team tougher than the rest?
The cool part is when I got to the team you know it was like, Jack Mclusky was putting together guys to do particular things. I was a shot blocker, defender, rebounder and that's the way they saw it. It's funny because when I came in I was trying to score like in college and they where like, "we just need you to play defence". Chuck Daly was like, "if you get an offensive rebound you can put it back in the basket". Dennis Rodman and I went after every offence rebound because to us it was a point. We went from "man they 'aint giving us any plays" to where we all fit in where it was necessary for, once again the locomotive to have the most steam. In coming in when the NBA has a plan to market their player Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all-time and he's in our conference I'm not trying to lose and no guy on my team was losers. So we got in the way. I tell people all the time, it's the greatest marketing of all time, of any person, the marketing of Michael Jordan. There could be a game going on and in the middle of this they could say, "Michael Jordan has just entered the arena in the American Centre". So the would always let you know the second game, so they could keep you with the first game. So they would tease you with the Bulls next and we kept getting in the way and sending him home so for years he was never allowed to get to that ability to win a championship until he gone through us. I'm just happy that the NBA at least acknowledged that they kind of swept us under the rug and we where this little team in this little town that was known for making cars causing havoc in the NBA.
24/48/82: I like what I see with the Pistons today. How do you feel about their future? Those 'Motor City' jerseys are especially great for the support of the city. Sometimes it goes beyond basketball.
I think them getting rid of my guy Joe D, put a bad taste in my mouth. But Joe did what he needed to do in that position and he can take care of himself, but the new owners, I know the guy from the Clippers is willing to do what it takes to win a championship and that's the way I look at owners. When they do what it takes to win a championship that's what sets it apart for me.
24/48/82: You have the honour of having and I'm quoting you here; "four championship rings, with three different teams, in three different decades and two different millenniums." How surreal is it to have your own special place in the history books? There's a very transitional path of your career too. From playing with Dennis Rodman for two different teams and playing under Phil Jackson for two. From sweeping the Lakers, to being swept by Michael Jordan? What's it like having all these experiences?
It's a trip because I see guys like Gary Payton and Mitch Richmond and Alonzo Mourning going to the Hall of Fame and they where All-Stars and they scored more points then I did and I was like, "but where they as successful as I was?" Looking at the hall, my cousin was like; "the things you've done will put you there" and I was like, "well I'm already in the record books I don't need to be in the Hall." But to do the things you've just mentioned. One, I didn't plan on it in the NBA I tell you. But the experience I got from it was to understand that Phil Jackson is a great coach and his system of the triangle offence is the reason he won championships. The fact that other teams don't take that on is AMAZING! If I was a coach and I hadn't played for Phil I would focus on what Phil did. I would copy the blueprint. Playing with D. Rodman was one of my blessings because once again me and Dennis weren't playing to try and be famous. We where playing to win. Because winning will make you famous.
24/48/82: It's funny I always champion role players and those that help win championships. Being a Lakers fan guys like Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, you, Ron Harper, Robert Horry and Rick Fox are my heroes like Shaq and Kobe. These are my young memories. I was thinking as well. You where known for your humour. How do you feel the comedic side helped ease nerves and raise spirits in tense playoff locker rooms?
I'm a tell you man. My job was Shaquille. A lot of people didn't understand my job was in practice. Since I had a pretty good command of the offence. So when Phil would yell out certain things and the ball would go certain places when I was playing defence on him I would push him to certain places he needed to be. It was like walking him through it like a chess piece. Until he was able to post up and get the ball where the triangle offence didn't set up. So Shaq made his own way and Kobe made his own way and in doing that and understanding how to stay within the system they where successful and they where able to be considered Hall Of Famers. So the system is what the deal is and the reason they won championships. Brian Shaw didn't get the job with the Lakers because they asked him what he felt about Phil and he was positive about Phil because he won five championships with him, two as a player and three as a coach. I mean, this is the guy! But they didn't want to hear that. They didn't want to hear it. So that's why he didn't get it. I always tell him. I talk to B once in awhile and I tell him, "hey man put the triangle in your offence" He says, "OK Sall I'll put some pieces in and I'm like, "put the triangle in your offence". He says, "But I'm the head coach".
24/48/82: From movie 'Bad Boy's to Luther Vandross videos what remains your favourite acting work amongst some of the best in the business? When I told my girlfriend who I was interviewing she said "who" and I was like, "the guy from 'Confessions Of A Shopaholic'"! And then she was like, "oooh yeeeah"!
(Laughs). To go back to 'Bad Boys' I went on set to see Martin they where shooting in Miami. Now Martin and WIll where friends of mine before they got where they are now. That was going to be their first big blockbuster movie with a $30 million budget. It was Michael Bay the director in his first big film. Now he used to direct my Nike commercials. I go there to see Martin and he's sitting there with his new fiancée and I said, "oh nice to meet you. Do you have a prenup"? He got pissed. He couldn't believe that was the first thing I said. "Yeah you're cute and all, but do you have a prenup"?! That's what Sinbad said to my wife and I before we got married and we made sure we got one. The cool thing was that Martin's girl was like, "I don't want any of your friends to think I'm after you for your money so we should get a prenup and do that". So he does and then he gets divorced three years later and he calls me and he thanks me and he goes, "I only had to give up a million dollars and it would have been a million more". In saying that I say to you. I go up and I hear Michael Bay and I like when we where walking up to set we where making things up and he didn't want me to play a basketball player and I liked that and then Jerry Bruckheimer called me up and said, "I need a little bit of funny in my movie. Do you want to be in my movie"? 'Confessions Of A Shopaholic'?! 'I said, "yes! How much does it pay?" He said, "how much did I pay you last time" and I said, "well it has nothing to do with what you're going to pay me this time" and he said, "it has everything to do with what I'm going to pay you this time". I said, "what are you going to pay me" and he said, "$25,000" and I said, "what day do you want me there"? I didn't care what he was going to pay me because I got $473 for 'Bad Boys'. But we got to write those parts and it was fun making them up.
24/48/82: You've hosted many shows but the biggest following has to come from literally 'The Best Damn Sports Show Period'. You where like the Arsenio Hall of sports shows.
That's what I like!
24/48/82: We miss it. Do you? Even though you have the podcasts etc today. How fond are your memories of that time and how do you feel it's set the standard for more sit down and relaxed pundit shows today?
I do miss it man it was a good cheque. It was a lot of fun everyday. It was not the same because there was struggles getting athletes on. Competing with ESPN because they had a bigger platform for these guys and a way of getting the guys too. I remember man they thought it was going to maybe last 6 weeks and then 8 years later. You know I was on it 'till four weeks before the end and I tell people all the time, "we where the view for sports", but you know after the first year we learned to not talk over one another we had some real colourful characters. Getting information from guys like Tom (Arnold), Michael Irving and Chris Rose trying to keep the carriage straight. I see a lot of guys now trying to be cool, but I always said. "why have you got these guys dressed in suits, these athletes. I'm not really listening to sports from a suit"! They said, "no it's dignified" and I said, "once it gets to the suits it's not the same look". So I like that they let us wear jerseys you know and casual clothes. The things you would wear when you where speaking about sports. That was my favourite thing that we literally broke the trend of having the suits on and we broke the tend of athletes not having any personality.
Yeah I was writing a book man and it was called, 'A View From The Bench' and it was all these wonderful stories from the NBA a lot of basketball and a couple of inside basketball, but I didn't want to mention names and everyone was like, "but a books not going to sell if you don't mention names". I said, "well...yes it will, 'Dallas Forty' didn't mention names and it was the best sports movie I've ever seen. So I don't need to mention team names". I didn't want to make it just a thing inside the NBA but they didn't want to go for that. So then I wanted to write a cooking book, but I stopped using oil, cooking and fattening oils in all my food. So I had to take time to erase oils and batter and cream from a thousand recipes. So I kind of put that on the back burner and I just do cooking shows tasting the food as opposed to telling you how to do it with recipes. Me focussing on the food business I'd rather sell a product then sit around in the kitchen like I did when I was growing up.
24/48/82: Although you're known as a funny man, you do is in a respectful friendly way and with all your other work from the ABA to 'Operation Smile' and more your really help too. In fact with what you just said about not wanting to mention any names, today it seems we live in a culture where people want to throw each other under the bus. In the face of all this, how important does it feel to be an influence of inspiration to people, especially in this day and age?
I think it's important to be passionate and when you're doing something your passionate about, letting people know. I mean I don't believe in fighting. I'm not for war for peace. I'm not against meat eaters. I'm for veggies. I'm on this side doing the work. Mother Theresa didn't want to be popular, she just wanted to be efficient and giving and selfless and that's kind of where I take off that mentality. Not that I'm Mother Theresa, but that is the thing that resonated to me more than trying to be the leading scorer in the NBA. I believe the sports part is great but what really motivates me is what moves peoples lives is something they can use everyday. When I get into health and talk about it really its for them. It's for their health but it's also for the health of the planet because in being a vegan and being a raw food vegan and talking about substantial ways and going green all of that encompasses being sustainable and that's why I speak about it. Now 'Operation Smile', because I have this smile it's got me into places and eased a lot of woes. It makes me understand how important it is to have that smile and what that smile does for your confidence and the people around you. No one came and asked me to do it. I asked and that was the best part of it and when I'm working for P.C.R.M. committee for response in medicine it's about making sure we have responsible medicine and catch up to the rest of the world when they deal with foods. 87% of the things we eat in America couldn't be sold in Europe or Great Britain because of the strict things they have on the food. And you guys of course eat food out there, so it's the mentality and how I push. I just think those things are important, what I'm passionate about and it doesn't offend people. Well it did offend the people I spoke to up in D.C. speaking at the house with their dairy lobbiest speaking about why it's important to have dairy farms and I said, "I'm not trying to stop your dairy farms" and they said, "you are"! "You're telling people cows milk and butter are bad for you"! I said, "I'm not saying it, I'm repeating it" and everybody was like "the things we show are good" and I was like, "well it was paid by you. The thing I get my information from are not attached to you. I'm doing it blind. The proof is in the pudding. Or in the stomach. All these kids are obese and what they eat our cow products. If you drink from a cow I'm sure you'll look like one." (Laughs)
24/48/82: With so much already achieved and more on your busy horizon what else does the spider have in his web?
I'm doing health and wellness retreats. I'm doing a thing called 'Betta Lifestyle'. That's 'better eating, today, tomorrow, always'. I made it ebonic because the guy wouldn't sell me the word 'better". It's better life path man. I'm literally going to move on an island in Jamaica. We're going to go to one of the islands in the Caribbean where the number one disease is diabetes and we're going to go there and explain how the body works and how to reverse the effects of diabetes. I don't ever say heal or cure. I say reverse the side effects. So my next fight is obesity and diabetes.
John we thank you for your time and consideration and the day one recognition. It will always be cherished and appreciated. All the best and thank you.