From the 2011-12 season to 2013-14, Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler played only 113 of a possible 246 games.
Then, after playing 78 games in 2014-15, he missed the entire 2015-16 season with a hip injury.
Tired of consistently battling injuries and other health-related stresses, Chandler looked for a different approach to his health and finally found what appears to be a solution: veganism.
Now a year and a half into his diet, Chandler says he is not going back.
"This is something I’m not really doing for, like, a 30-day challenge or my basketball career," Chandler told Business Insider. "I think this is a lifestyle thing. It’s up and down — there’s certain food you can’t have, so it’s up and down, but for the most part, I stick to it."
Chandler said he was "99% sure" he would never go back to an omnivorous diet. And why not? In 2016-17, Chandler played 71 games, averaging 15.7 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game — both career highs — while boasting a 54.5% true shooting percentage, the second-best mark of his career. He said he had been most affected by his ability to recover after workouts, practices, and games, and that he felt a difference in his energy.
Chandler was first turned onto the concept by former NBA guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. Chandler said that after making inroads in what he called the "vegan and vegetarian crowds," he moved from being a pescatarian and vegetarian to strictly a vegan.
A typical meal for Chandler isn’t all that different from a non-vegan’s. For instance, Chandler says that after working out, he has a vegan protein shake and some carbs. The day before our phone call, he said, he ate a vegan burger, sauteed broccoli, and black beans, and drank kombucha.
Initially, eating on the road was difficult, but he’s gotten to know vegan spots in different cities. Chandler says Los Angeles has a good vegan and plant-based-food scene, as does Chicago, but Detroit has his favorite vegan restaurant, Detroit Vegan Soul. Chandler’s go-to is a platter with foods like mac and cheese — vegan, of course, — collard greens, black-eyed peas, and yams. He’s also a fan of its fried-cabbage sandwich.
While Chandler said he would gladly recommend the diet, he thinks it’s already spreading among more and more players. Chandler hasn’t talked to some he says he has seen "experimenting" with plant-based diets, like Portland’s Damian Lillard and Sacramento’s Garrett Temple, but he thinks the knowledge of its benefits will help players around the league.
Of course, it’s not as if Chandler isn’t still tempted to eat poorly. There is one food he still misses.
"The thing I probably miss the most probably would be tacos, man," Chandler said. "Just, like, authentic tacos. They have plant-based tacos, but it’s different from what you grew up on."
Though Chandler said the Nuggets could help him prepare food if he needed, he mostly handles his diet himself and feels more confident about it now that he has a season under his belt.
At 30, entering his 10th season, Chandler is going to stick with what works, though not just for basketball — Chandler feels as though he’s found a winning recipe.
"This is something I wanna do for my life," he said.