Cleanthony is a professional basketball player who has played in the NBA and Hungarian league.
He was an All-American college player at Wichita State University and in 2014 was selected with the 34th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, with who he signed. During his rookie season he played for the Westchester Knicks of the NBA Development League, averaging 20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
During the 2015–16 season, he became the fifth player ever to appear in both a Development League game and NBA game in the same day. In March 2016, Cleanthony made his first appearance for New York since December 29, 2015, having been out for nearly three months with a knee injury he suffered in a shooting while being robbed.
In late 2016 he transferred to the Santa Cruz Warriors where he averaged 9.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. A year later he transferred to Rio Grande Valley Vipers and in 2019 he moved to Atomerőmű SE of the Hungarian Nemzeti Bajnokság I/A.
In 2017 Cleanthony turned vegan after eight months as a pescatarian. In an interview late in that year he said in an interview: “I feel much better. I feel really good, I always felt good but there’s some health things that I read up on that in the long run I’m trying to avoid by eating healthier.” He reported a loss of weight of 10lb (5.5kg), and said it enabled him to reshape his body and up his conditioning.
Santa Cruz’s athletic trainer, Long Lam, has also commented on Cleanthony’s transition, saying he noticed his body feels much healthier than it did in the past. The trainer has remarked that Cleanthony’s tissue and joints are more flexible, and that there’s less inflammation after practices and games.
The transition wasn’t particularly difficult, as Cleanthony was never a fan of pork or beef – but admitted he struggled with giving up milk and cheese.
He also stressed that he researched food first, and took advice as well. “Doing my research is literarily part of being influenced by other people as far as being introduced by certain things and certain people,” he said.
A rare vegan
Cleanthony hasn’t tried to influence any of his teammates but said everyone is aware of the fact that he stopped eating non-vegan things and even joke with him about it. “Sometimes when we have food after the game and if it’s all meat stuff, the only thing that they have for me is kind of like a vegetable plate,” he said.
Trainer Long Lam ensured there was vegan food during the Warriors’ training camp. Instead of meat, some dishes like chili beans substituted the beef or pork with tofu. And as the team keeps bringing more veggie dishes, they’re proving popular.
“The cool thing is having the vegan dishes there, other guys can try it,” Lam said. “Some guys actually like the vegan dishes. It can inspire other players on the team to also eat healthier, be mindful of it.” However, things didn’t go well when Cleanthony was linked to a move to Athens.
Reports based on now-deleted exchanges on Twitter claim that Cleanthony couldn’t find the foods he required close to Athens. He went on to lose 7lb (3kg) and asked to be released if the problem couldn’t be solved, which they later did.
While Cleanthony clearly entered the sport as a talented athlete, his tough training is well documented.
Trainer Rick Scarpulla has explained the need for Cleanthony to work on speed, strength, flexibility, balance, optical recognition and reaction. “It’s all about first-step speed and explosive power in any sport. Jump training is one of the best things you can do, and you can do it anywhere.”
He’s talked about training Cleanthony’s posterior chain – and his mental approach, which was noted as a benefit of veganism.
As he continues his career, veganism is part of the plan.
“Part of it is just being disciplined and choosing to eat healthier things rather than things that are not healthy” he says.