Mavericks Center DeAndre Jordan Defies Doubters to Stay Vegan in Dallas
DALLAS -- There are more than 15 barbeque restaurants within two miles of the American Airlines Center, where DeAndre Jordan now plays with the Dallas Mavericks. But for the team’s 6’11”, 265-pound big man, finding a place to eat can be quite the challenge.
Despite what his size and strength would suggest, D.J. is actually a vegan, eating only plant-based foods. Though his move from the Los Angeles Clippers last summer made sense in terms of filling a role as a big-time defensive center in Dallas, the change left him with just two completely vegan restaurant options within a two-mile radius of the arena he now calls home.
“In LA, every other place is a vegan place, so it was a lot easier,” D.J. tells CloseUp360 after the Mavs’ last practice of 2018 at their facility. “But in Dallas, I found some places that I can go to.”
So how did the 30-year-old Houston native find the plant-based lifestyle and further maintain it in a city known for its barbeque?
DeAndre Jordan dunks over three of his former Clippers teammates during his return to Staples Center with the Mavericks this season. (Andrew D. Bernstein)
Though DeAndre loves animals—especially his boxer named Bruce—his dietary shift came more out of concern for his own health.
“For me, I care about my body, so whatever I put in it, I want it to be good to where I want to produce that,” he says. “I'm a true believer in whatever I put in my body, that's what I'm going to produce.”
Though he has been in the NBA for 11 years, DeAndre hasn’t always been a conscious eater. That change came in 2016 when after eight years in the league, D.J. started to notice how diet affects players during and after their on-court careers.
“I wasn't a documentary guy, like, ‘Oh, I watched What the Health!’ Nah, that wasn't it for me,” he says. “For me, it was just seeing different health issues with people and I didn't want that to cause injuries or when I'm done playing, I'm sick. That happens to people not even when they're athletes, but just regular everyday life.”
D.J.’s decision to go vegan invited (and continues to invite) a wide range of reactions. Even while talking about his veganism, he endures some good-natured heckling from longtime Mavs guard J.J. Barea.
“Hey D.J., you want that cheeseburger that you always eat?” J.J. says, with a big smile on his face.
D.J. tries to ignore him while cracking a smile of his own, but J.J won’t relent.
“Nah, man,” D.J. says.
“You don't want it today?” J.J. continues.
“Nah, I'ma take the steak. I'ma have the steak,” D.J. jokes back.
Not all the responses to DeAndre's dietary change have been as lighthearted as J.J.'s. Some of D.J.'s friends, family and teammates—including his mother, Kimberly—advised against a plant-based lifestyle. They worried that, without meat, he would lose weight and energy, therefore adversely affecting his overall health and on-court production.
“They were, like, ‘You can't do that shit. Nah, you're gonna lose all your strength. You're gonna be tired,’” he recalls. “And I was, like, ‘Damn! Nobody believes I can do it?’ Not that I could do it, but that I could sustain it while playing. I was, like, ‘Man, I can do this. Let me take this to another level.’”
Instead of going full vegan all at once, DeAndre eased into a healthier lifestyle by trying other pared-down diets. In the summer of 2016, he committed to being vegetarian for the entire offseason.
But D.J. did more than experiment with a new diet. That same summer, he heard about a plant-based business opportunity from Beth Moskowitz, the executive director at Sports Spectacular, which connects athletes to innovative medical research to improve their health.
“I know you're a healthy eater,” she told him. “I don't know if you're thinking about going vegan, but there’s this plant-based meat. Maybe you want to get involved in it.”
DeAndre dunks over JaVale McGee and Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. (Chris Elise)
After reading “a couple articles about it” from Beth, D.J. became an investor in Beyond Meat, a company headquartered in Los Angeles that produces plant-based meat substitutes. The meat alternative is sold in Whole Foods Market and Target stores, and served in restaurants across the country—including Spiral Diner and Bakery, D.J.’s favorite vegan restaurant in Dallas.
The following summer, he tried out pescetarianism, which allows for seafood. He tried to keep that going through the following season, and at times limited his intake of red meat to once per week.
“I'd be, like, ‘Okay, I'm going to kind of slowly wean off [meat] a bit.’ Then once the season was over I just cut,” D.J says, while making the universal gesture for “no more.”
Finally, in April 2018, he went full vegan—but not before undergoing blood tests to check his vitamin and nutrient levels.
“I wasn’t deficient in a lot of things,” he says. “I just had to supplement one or two different things and it wasn't anything drastic, so I stuck with it. And I feel so much better.”
Since going vegan, DeAndre feels lighter—not in the sense that he lost weight, but rather in that he doesn’t feel weighed down after eating heavy meats and dairy. To supplement the protein he misses from animal products, D.J. eats more grains and nuts, and drinks vegan protein shakes regularly.
“I have more energy, which was weird to me in the beginning because I was, like, ‘I know I'm gonna be tired,’ but it was the total opposite,” he says. “Recovery is a lot better. I still have some inflammation, but not nearly as much as I did when I was eating dairy. I thought I was going to have to take a lot of supplements to get [enough protein], but it was the opposite. I get it from vegetables.”
Aside from eating at Spiral, this season D.J. has also enjoyed V-Eats Modern Vegan at Trinity Groves and Be Raw (which recently closed), both of which are vegan-friendly restaurants. When he’s not eating out, the 2017 All-Star takes to his own kitchen. With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, D.J. found Purple Carrot, a vegan meal-kit company that delivers fresh ingredients and recipes to prepare at home.
“It's cool. They send you a little pamphlet of two weeks of food. And it'll show you a nice little picture of the meal, and then it'll have the recipe and ingredients,” he says. “I've done it a couple times. I've made quinoa kimchi tacos. If I could do it, fuck, anybody could do it.”
D.J.'s Top Vegan Spots in Dallas
1) Spiral Diner and Bakery
2) V-Eats Modern Vegan
Though it was an easy decision for him, D.J. believes becoming a vegan is a choice everyone—including his three-year-old son, Jaden—should make for themselves. He will occasionally feed Jaden vegan meals, but ultimately wants him to decide for himself when the time comes.
But not everyone in D.J.'s inner circle has embraced animal-free fare.
“I got my mom and some of my family to try some [vegan] stuff,” he says, “but it's very tough to get them to like it.”
DeAndre isn't alone among vegans in the NBA. All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard are both free of animal products. So is Ryan Broekhoff, D.J.’s rookie teammate in Dallas.
“I think it's cool. I think it's people caring about their bodies—not only now, but in the future,” D.J. says. “They care about where their food is being grown. I feel like that stuff really has an impact on the production of the meat that's being served to people.”
DeAndre rises up over Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trail Blazers. (Glenn James)
Though he hasn’t even been vegan for a full year yet, D.J.’s cravings for non-vegan food are minimal. But there is one animal-centric food group that tests his mettle.
“I'm a sushi guy,” he says with a big smile. “So I miss sushi a ton. I miss that shit a lot. And then sometimes [teammates] bring chicken wings on the plane and I smell them, and I'm, like, ‘Damn. That shit smells good.’ But I haven't gone back to the dark side, which I'm very proud of.”
Instead of getting toro or salmon—his old favorites—when out for sushi, D.J. opts for vegetable rolls. He originally thought he'd try veganism for a year, but after nearly nine months, he sees it as a long-term lifestyle that will benefit him not only now, but also when his playing days are done.
DeAndre still goes in for blood tests to be sure he isn’t missing anything in his diet. But despite the flack he gets from teammates, he doesn’t waver. He remains resolute with his food choices, honoring his body with every bite he takes.
“I love it now,” he says. “I feel like it's part of me.”