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Nineteen-year-old vegan basketball player Cade Cunningham has been chosen as the first draft pick in the NBA. He was drafted by the Detroit Pistons. Cunningham has also joined the vegan egg company Just Egg as its latest athlete ambassador.
Oklahoma State basketball player Cade Cunningham first tried eating vegan for about two weeks out of sheer curiously and how his body would react to it.
On a trip with Team USA to Greece during the FIBA World Cup, Cunningham wasn’t familiar with the food on the journey and started eating at McDonald’s. However, he decided to go back to veganism and this time stick with it.
The Pistons say the team picked Cunningham because of his unique blend of size and skills and his 6-foot-7 frame makes him a threat as the main ball-handler. During his last season at OSU, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 steals.
Promoting egg alternatives
The athlete has also joined forces with Eat Just, makers of the vegan egg alternative JUST Egg.
Detroit’s famous FOLK Cafe will create an animal-free option called ‘Cade Stack’ using the vegan egg. This new option will contain the JUST Egg Folded, along with shakshuka cheese sauce, spread on Zingerman’s plant-based country bread.
NBA players’ stand for veganism
Cunningham isn’t the only vegan NBA player. Kyrie Irving, point guard for the Boston Celtics, has said that his plant-based diet has been instrumental in the team’s recent victories. He has partnered with plant-based meat pioneer Beyond Meat to raise awareness about the benefits of plant-based meat through its “Go Beyond” campaign.
Other vegan NBA players include JaVale McGee, a centre for the Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul. Both of these players joined vegan brands Outstanding Foods and goPuff to encourage their fans to eat vegan. Brooklyn Nets’ vegan centre DeAndre Jordan has his own plant-based cooking show called Cooking Clean and is also an ambassador for Eat Just.
Other athletes swear by a vegan diet for performance. American professional boxer Claressa Shields won the junior middleweight division citing her plant-based diet for her athletic performance. With this new win, she becomes the first woman fighter to win an undisputed championship in two weight classes. Tennis champion Venus Williams is a long-time vegan advocate. She recently launched her own vegan protein shake brand, Happy Viking.
The 2019 documentary The Game Changers helped to highlight the benefits of a plant-based diet by showing professional athletes who say the diets helped reduce recovery times, improve performance, and delayed onset muscle soreness.
Studies have shown that plant-based diets feed gut microbes that help lower the chances of getting heart disease, obesity and diabetes and that there is an “inverse association” between an increased intake of these foods and the mortality rates caused by heart disease.
Lead image courtesy of NBA.