Cleveland Cavaliers center JaVale McGee may be one of the most interesting and multi-faceted athletes on and off the court.
The 7-foot tall, 33-year-old is now in his 13th year in the league was languishing and struggling to come off the bench during the 2015-2016 season with the Dallas Mavericks after trying to bulk up and get bigger and stronger for his role on the team. It did not work out. McGee was 280 pounds and felt slow, feeling like he couldn’t jump or play his style of basketball from earlier in his career in Washington and Denver when he was averaging multiple blocks per game and acting as a defensive force.
McGee heard that the fastest way to lose weight was to go vegan.
“The first thing I did, was one day I just went cold turkey and went vegan,” McGee said. “And I lost the weight I had to lose.”
Since then the Michigan native has had a remarkable second act to his career, winning two NBA championships as a bench sparkplug with the Golden State Warriors and starting at center last season next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the world champion Los Angeles Lakers. McGee said he’s just had so much more energy both on and off the court since dramatically changing his diet.
“Sometimes I scare myself on how much energy I have, to where I play a whole game, play a lot of minutes in the game and then I won’t be tired after the game,” he said. “I can’t get sleep. I’m like what’s going on? I’m supposed to be tired.”
Then McGee gets to practice the next day and he said he feels like he’s had the most energy he’s ever had.
“I don’t know what it is, but eating clean is just so energizing,” he said. “Sometimes you have to look at yourself like am I doing too much, or why aren’t I tired? It’s weird.”
McGee’s decided to put his money where his mouth is and invest in a trio of vegan, organic brands. Along with Snoop Dogg and Rob Dyrdek, McGee has put money into vegan snack brand Outstanding Foods, which is marketing a line of vegan pork rinds. He’s also an investor in Beyond Meat, along with numerous NBA players like DeAndre Jordan, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul, and restaurant chain Tocaya Organica. He’s also an investor in Canadian blockchain-based company Dapper Labs, makers of NBA Top Shot, along with fellow NBA players Andre Iguodala, Spencer Dinwiddie, Aaron Gordon and Garrett Temple.
“I like to invest in things that I can relate to or things that I can at least understand,” the University of Nevada-Reno product said. “Being vegan is something I understand, and eating snacks is something I understand. So I’m glad I got in when I got in.”
For McGee, eating vegan was especially challenging over the summer at the NBA’s Orlando bubble at Disney World while playing with the Lakers. He ended up essentially eating the same thing every day, a vegan jambalaya made from Beyond sausage from a restaurant called Three Bridges inside the resort.
Just two days after an offseason trade from Los Angeles to Cleveland, McGee received some other life-changing news out of L.A. Justin Bieber’s 2020 album “Changes” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album, which meant McGee was nominated too after helping write and produce a song on the album titled “Available.”
McGee has always loved producing music, helping his friends make mix tapes while in college. When he got to the NBA as the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft, he realized how many influential connections he could make as a professional athlete. One of those influential connections he’s made over the years is superstar producer Poo Bear, who’s produced and written hit songs for Usher, Chris Brown and most famously Bieber’s preferred musical collaborator.
McGee was in the studio one day with Poo Bear and played him some melodies that he made from his computer. Poo Bear liked it and they started writing lyrics to go with it.
“Probably a month or two later, maybe three, he told me that the beat was done and that Justin Bieber had got on it. And I was on the album,” McGee said. “When I heard that news, it was truly amazing. Initially it wasn’t like ‘I’m gonna work with Poo Bear so I can get on a Justin Bieber album.’ I was just trying to make music and we were just vibing in the studio. I had no idea where this track was going, who it was going to.”
It was just another day where McGee was doing what he loved and what he found interesting. And to date, those two mindsets have helped him become one of the most fascinating and underratedly influential basketball players on the planet.