At 37 years old, future NBA Hall of Famer Chris Paul is focused on generational health. Born and raised in the barbecue capital of North Carolina, Paul eschewed the pulled pork and fried chicken delicacies he dined on for most of his life in 2019 in favor of a plant-based diet that evolved into a lifestyle. Now, with the launch of his first-ever Gopuff plant-based snack line Good Eat’n, the Phoenix Suns’ floor general is hoping to lead people away from the unhealthy lifestyles he’s personally seen claim too many lives.
“Growing up where we grow up, all these people are dying from heart disease, gout, and all of these different infections and diseases,” Paul told Men’s Health. “A lot of people always say it’s hereditary, but one of the things passed down from generation to generation is recipes. So everybody’s putting the same things in their bodies.”
For Paul, who started his plant-based lifestyle in 2019, the biggest impediments to people embracing plant-based food are education, accessibility, and, most importantly, taste. When people hear about plant-based foods, he believes they think of expensive substitutes for what they’re already used to eating packaged in impersonal monochromatic bags and devoid of flavor. To shift this mentality, Paul and Gopuff spent the better part of two years taste-testing a flavor-first approach to plant-based snacks featuring BBQ Porkless Rinds, Cinnamon Sugar Mini Donut Puffs, and Cookies N Creme Popcorn.
The packaging, designed by the Black-founded, female-led studio Utendahl Creative, looks more like a zany graphic T-shirt than a health-conscious bag of snacks. The products are exclusively available to be delivered via Gopuff and are priced between $3.29 to $4.29, making them cheaper than a few of their counterparts at stores like Whole Foods and accessible to those who may not live in areas with healthy food options. Paul contends he isn’t selling a product on unrealistic platitudes about ripping every person from the shackles of meat. Instead, he wants to sell education that tastes good.
“My goal isn’t to convert everybody to completely plant-based diets. I want to at least introduce you to some of these things you may incorporate. One of the things that families don’t talk about, especially black men, is our health.”
He has longevity on his mind as he’s currently in the rarified air of entering his 18th season in the NBA. While he’s hoping to help others have healthier futures, he also knows his time in the league is coming to an end and what will have the biggest impact on his retirement. This is Chris Paul at 37.
Men’s Health: You started your plant-based diet in 2019, and have since had some of the biggest successes in your NBA career. You went to your first NBA Finals in the last few years. How does the plant-based diet factor into the rare longevity you’ve been able to exhibit?
How my body has changed, the way that I feel, and how I don’t hurt and ache as much as I did for years. It started out as performance-based, but then it turned into a lifestyle with me trying to figure out how I could help my family get healthier by just making a few healthier decisions. My goal isn’t to convert everybody to completely plant-based diets. I want to at least introduce you to some of these things you may incorporate. One of the things that families don’t talk about, especially black men, is our health.
As far as longevity, when you talk about Tom Brady, LeBron [James], probably Serena [Williams], and all these different people, the biggest thing for them and any athlete is you’re always trying to battle recovery. You talk to any athlete; they’ll tell you the most important thing in recovery is if you can be good on Monday night and better on Tuesday. So that’s where I’ve seen the biggest shift in me.
How much do you want your plant-based life to be a part of the future of your legacy?
It’s fine if it’s part of my legacy. When I started, it was for performance. As far as basketball, that’s still near and dear to me. Then, it changed my lifestyle, and I’m still learning about it. I don’t know about you, but growing up where we grow up, all these people are dying from heart disease, gout, and all of these different infections and diseases. As I’ve grown up and have gone to these funerals for different family members, they say what the person passed from, and then everybody at the wake is eating the same thing that all these different people have died from. It’s because we were never taught any of these different types of things about food. A lot of people always say it’s hereditary, but one of the things passed down from generation to generation is recipes. So everybody’s putting the same things in their bodies. So, if it can give you just a little bit more time with your people, then I’m all for it.
You started adding a plant-based diet to your lifestyle in 2019. How does your diet compare with the snacks you’re offering for your Good Eat’n line with Gopuff?
The one thing I do all of the time that we all do is snack (laughs). I have a group chat with all my homies I grew up with, and we constantly talk about how we can help better each other. We all snack. So how could we bring something plant-based to the snack world but still make it fun and exciting? You ever ate something plant-based?
Yeah. I’ve had plant-based burgers before. They’re not that bad.
Yeah. Not that bad. We want to make it where people aren’t saying, “This is plant-based food, right?” It should just be food. It’s going to take a while to get there. But, with this snack line, we want to make it where it isn’t for just vegans or plant-based eaters. This is for people who like food. People start talking about plant-based foods and say, “It’s bland. It has no taste.” We didn’t sacrifice anything as far as flavor and taste.
What problems in the plant-based industry do you think your snack line helps solve?
One of the big things about partnering with Gopuff is the accessibility. With Gopuff and the fulfillment centers, even if a particular area doesn’t have Whole Foods or all these other different places, people can still access Gopuff and have these snacks delivered. So this may be their introduction to something plant-based.
Next month, Netflix is releasing the doc The Redeem Team about the 2008 U.S. Men’s Basketball Team you were on. Is there any memory from that time that sticks out to you that people may not know about?
Probably one of the dopest moments was during our first days of practice. We were on the court, and Coach K brought out a little TV. We were thinking, “What is going on?” So he started playing this video of Marvin Gaye performing the national anthem at the [1983 NBA] All-Star Game.
We all stood there and had goosebumps. That’s when we realized this team and what we were doing was bigger than any of us. I remember after almost every game we won, we played that song. We were trying to see if they could play it while we were on the stand while we were getting our gold medals (laughs). That’s probably something I’ll never forget. It actually inspired me to have suits made for all of my teammates when I was in Oklahoma City.
You are still one of the best point guards in the game, even at 37 years old. What will you listen to the most to determine when it’s time to retire: Your mind or body?
It’s a combination of both. I pay attention to any and everything. I’ve watched the process of some of my closest friends who have retired. It’s crazy when you love it. You’re never necessarily ready to let go. The hardest part for me at this point is being away from my family. My wife and kids live here in LA, and I’m in Phoenix alone. I have so much stress and anxiety right now because my kids are ages 13 and 10—where if I were with my family, there’s no telling when I’d be done playing (laughs). This would be my fourth season living without them because they had moved to Houston and were moving a lot. I wanted my family to have some type of stability. God forbid any injury or anything like that; my family will be the biggest impact on my career.
How do you deal with that stress and anxiety?
I’m always open to suggestions (laughs). Until I leave [for the season], I take my kids to school every day. Last night, I was at my daughter’s soccer practice sitting outside on the grass from 6-730. I’m just trying to give them that time because time is the thing that kids appreciate more than anything.
Paul’s Good Eat’n snacks range between $3 and $4 per bag. You can try them now and have them delivered right to you door via Gopuff.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.