Next week, Salley will star in NBC's 'I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!'. The reality show, which features 10 celebrities living in a Costa Rican jungle, premieres on Monday, June 1. Viewers will be able to vote for their favorite celebrity, a list which include former WWE diva Torrie Wilson and actor Stephen Baldwin, until only one remains at the end of the month.
FanHouse spoke to Salley about preparing for life in the jungle and the lack of toughness being allowed in this year's NBA playoffs. The full interview is below.
John Salley: The booking agent is an old friend of mine, and he had just worked with Dennis Rodman. He was thinking of people that would be cool on television (laughs) ... I didn't want to be involved with anything that would embarrass me or my family, so I thought it was cool. Plus, the fact that it was going to raise money for this charity that I'm missing, because I help this charity every year called "Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular" where we raise money for the kids hospital inside Cedars-Sinai here in Los Angeles. I usually host it June 7, and this year Dwyane Wade, Ryan Sheckler (and) Laila Ali are going to be there, and I usually have fun on stage moving the show through. But this time, they can watch me make money. So, it's got to be bigger than myself, and I did it.
You will be roughing it in the woods for a full month. Will that be an issue for you?
I always say that I left a concrete jungle when I left Brooklyn, and now they are going to put me in one with trees (laughs). I made it to 45 missing out on all the snakes and poison in the city, and I stayed focused on my goals and was successful. I think that's how it's going to work this time.
I recently heard that you are an arachnophobic. Is that true?
Yup. But let me tell you, one of my favorite movies is Batman, especially the new one, and when he had to face his fear of bats, I said that I have to face my fear of spiders. I've been talking about how I'm afraid of spiders, and I just thought, 'You know what? Fear is nothing.' I'm not going to fear nothing, so I'm looking into it.
So, then how did you ever get the nickname "Spider" Salley? Was that some kind of mean joke someone played on you?
(Laughs) That's part of the reason. We always said it was about my long arms and legs, but it's really about the fact that I was afraid of spiders. The only fear I've ever had was spiders, and it's only one kind of spider: the tarantula ... So, I said, 'You know what? I know it's in the jungle. As long as I don't have to eat a live one, I'm cool.'
NBAE via Getty Images (3)
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You are also a devout vegan. Do you think that will be a strike against you right off the bat?
No, it's a strike for me, because I'm really not hungry for fake food - I'm only hungry for real food (laughs). So, I'm not going to miss any of the processed things. I've mostly cleared my body of the desire for sugar and plastic food. Plus, I'm a vegan because every day I make sure my body stays as clean as I can possibly get it so I can have a better life. If I have to eat certain things during tasks to get to the ultimate goal, it's not going to take away from the fact that I'm a vegan. I mean, I've prepared my body; so in case anything bad does come to it, I can fight it off.
Is there anyone on the cast that you are dreading having to spend time with?
You know, it's funny - I'm never that kind of guy. I always think there's good in everybody and I think there's evil in everybody. I think that's a balance people have. But I think it's very rare, if you know anything about me, to hear me say I don't like somebody. If I don't like somebody they will or anyone else will never know. I don't believe in putting forth that negative energy, man. So if somebody turns out to be a not-so nice person, that's on his conscience, not mine. I'm taking the high road – it's a better view.
You've had a lot of different TV and movie gigs since retiring from the NBA in 2000. Have people begun noticing you as a TV star, as opposed to a former NBA player?
That was my plan. If you look at people like "The Rock," he was known as "The Rock." Now he's known as Dwayne [Johnson]. Also, Ludacris – now he's known as Chris [Bridges]. I just decided that you just gotta keep recreating yourself, and when I played ball that was a blessing, man. I loved playing basketball and I loved the competition, but I haven't played since 2000 and I really didn't play then. So in nine years, I've transitioned into television, film, radio and print ads. I became an author and I've got my new book coming out pretty soon called "Flagrant Foul: Memoirs of a Bad Boy" ...
So, the book is about your NBA career?
Yeah. It's funny anecdotes and different memoirs. At the end of each chapter it kind of gives you an idea who I am and who I've become.
After getting fired from the 'Best Damn Sports Show Period' in October, how do you feel about the show coming to an end next month?
(They) told me I was making too big of a check ... (But) I appreciate everything. They taught me television. They taught me what to avoid in television and what to do in television.
Were you bitter when they let you go?
Nah. You know, it was a trip. I wasn't happy about it (and) I didn't think it was cool. But they gave me a spot and they gave me another spot by letting me go. I wouldn't be able to do this show if they hadn't let me go. My only thing is I wish people would have known that I was out of the 'Best Damn Sports Show', because in Hollywood, when you're some place for so long, I call it they "OB" you. Meaning they obituary you as that one thing and I'm multifaceted. I'm not bragging or trying to be braggadocios or anything, but I am not just fitted for one place. The best thing about that show is they let me do everything else: movie premieres, interviews with some great people ... I did some great trips. Last year, I went to India and they understood I had to go. I met the Dalai Lama and none of that would have been possible without the grace of 'Best Damn.' I became a television producer. I started my own production company, which I already had, but with this (happening), I then turned it into a real production company. So, maybe I can bring some shows back to that network. So, I never get mad, I want to get paid (laughs).
Your former coach on the Detroit Pistons, Chuck Daly, recently passed away. What's your favorite Daly memory?
One of my favorite things with Chuck Daly was in 1992. We were having a tough year, and Chuck let me know that they were going to trade me at the end of the year. He also let me know that he wasn't coming back. He always talked to me like a father figure, not down to me. He said, 'I'm going to get the guys in Miami to take care of you. You've always been a good and never stopped being a good guy. Good guys finish first.' That was it and I thanked him for it. I wound up going to Miami; Billy Cunningham gave me a great contract, and I think that's all because of what Chuck Daly did.
Once he was yelling and screaming at me. He came down, looked at me and goes, 'Can you believe this? Can you believe that I got this handkerchief in this suit, and no one has complimented me yet?' And I just laughed. I said, 'You look great, Chuck.' He goes, 'I know.' And we walked back to the other end. Everybody thought he was yelling at me for something else. He would always tell everybody that I had the best mental health because he knew that he could yell at me and say whatever you want to say to me. Just make sure my check arrives on the 15th and don't take me out of the game. He was a great person, man. Really a great person.
What was it like reuniting with your former Pistons' teammates at the funeral?
I tell everybody that a lot of times these are just your teammates – not your family or brothers. They were the thing that took you away from all that. I'm closer with my family than I am with anything else, but like I said, I always stay even keel with a lot of people. So, that was that with that.
Back in the day, the "Bad Boys" brought a lot of physicality to the NBA playoffs. It seems like your team wouldn't have gotten away with any of the stuff you did in today's league. Do you think the NBA has gotten too soft?
Yeah. I think the difference is the NBA now pays a little more attention to their product. I think the world has changed, too. The world has become soft. I think America, in general, (has become soft). You have to be over-sensitive about what you say. Coming in second is okay - every kid gets a trophy. I mean, that's wack ... To the victor goes the spoils – that's the attitude I'm used to having. You know, shows like "Archie Bunker" and "Fred Sanford," those shows could never make it on television now because of all the sensitivity of everybody.
I say this all the time: I think everything deserves a balance. Some of my best friends are gay. When I saw that girl on Donald Trump's Miss USA Pageant [Miss California, Carrie Prejean] voice her personal opinion (on gay marriage), it was like gladiator. She was ridiculed for pointing out her opinion. If she would have voiced her opinion like some people's that man and man can marry and woman and woman can marry, she would have been applauded. But in the other society where she is a part of, she would have been demoralized. So, she went with what she felt, and that became a news topic, which is unfair. You can't ridicule someone for what they feel. So, I just think that society has changed. Personally, I think no one should get married, man. Once you get married, you'll realize what I'm saying (laughs).
Thanks a lot. I just got married.
(Laughs) Well, let me tell you something: I got an old saying when I put on my radio show, I think married people should have a seven-year contract. If after the first seven years it's cool, you re-up your deal and go to the next seven years. I don't think it should be a life-long license. I think it should be worked on. My wife and I have been married three or four times, man. We had to keep recreating our marriage. And everybody says, 'Well, it's hard to do.' It's not supposed to be hard, man. It's supposed to be joyful, but you know, everything has a balance, as I'm going to keep saying.
Spoken like a true NBA player. So, why has the league changed so much?
I think the whole society has just gone soft. I don't think it's just the NBA. Think about this, dude: we sit around and cry about everything. It used to be, 'Yo, man, don't cry. Toughen up' ... You can't even say at work that a girl is beautiful. That's sexual harassment. That's bull sh*t. I just think that whole mentality is really some bull sh*t. I'm not bull sh*tting you. I just think that whole toughness is gone.
How were the "Bad Boys" able to get away with so much?
Just to let you know: more than 20 different NBA rules have changed because of the "Bad Boys." Remember Dennis Rodman in 1991? Scottie [Pippen] was going to the basket, and you used to be allowed to hit the guy as hard as you can so he couldn't make the basket. Now, maybe it wasn't a smart foul -- I don't think anyone went out to cut somebody under their legs – but if you hit him hard, you said, 'Make it on the foul line. You want to come in the lane? Make it on the foul line.' Nowadays, you foul somebody, next thing you know they're close to telling you, 'Hey, man, I think this guy just pressed charges.' I mean, it's a joke.
What's your personal favorite rough and tough "Bad Boys" moment?
(Laughs) I didn't do anything dirty. I'm a clean player (laughs). I never did anything; it wasn't me; I wasn't there; I don't know what you are talking about (laughs).
Do you have a hard time watching the playoffs now because the product is so different from when you were playing?
Yeah, I do. Until I watch LeBron, "The Truth" [Paul Pierce] and Kobe [Bryant]. You know, Bill Laimbeer used to take charges and whine to the referees. Back then you could talk to the referee, say what you want to say and it keep it moving. Now you say something and it's a technical. Now everybody knows the referee's name and their personal business. Back then, the referees didn't matter.
Both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are enjoying historic playoff runs. Who do you think is the better player?
I think they're two different people. I think LeBron is a beast. But I think Kobe Bryant is Michael Jordan plus or Michael Jordan improved. It's like you had Tide and now you got Tide Plus.