Part one of the Basketball Wives L.A. reunion airs tonight, and one of the best parts of any BBW reunion is the guarantee that John Salley will be the host, ready to mediate and occasionally act as therapist to the ladies on the show. I chatted with John as he was eating lunch (hence this picture of us together which will, I assume, be the first and last time an NBA star will have fed me lunch straight off his plastic fork), but try as he might, he didn’t convert me to a vegan diet (yet). He did talk about how much he loves this hosting gig though, and why he defends basketball players’ despite their reputation as cheaters, saying the sport has nothing to do with it. This man is a pretty deep thinker and our conversation went from our own marriages to to his hilarious appearance on The T.O. Show, but for the most part, I’ll keep things to Basketball Wives-related content.
You know these shows backwards and forwards.
And I lived the life because I was an NBA ball player — way back before Twitter and Facebook, I was one of the first guys on my team with a cell phone.
It’s funny you say that because shows like this thrive on social media, communities are created on Twitter and Facebook to talk about these people, and the stars of the shows are available online all the time to engage with fans.
Social media has changed the world, for better and for worse. Back in the day when you had to look up a word, in that process of looking up one word, you ran into a couple other words, you would keep learning. The crazy thing is now, we’re losing language. Shake my head, SMH. Laugh out loud, LOL. I also think there are good parts though. With reality television, it’s gotten to the point where it’s not art imitating life anymore, it’s life. Because people only have time for things that are real.
So in your experience having been in the league, are these shows reflective of what the reality is for basketball families?
Not…at all. [Laughs] The difference with the wives when I was coming up, there wasn’t as much access. It was more private. My wife decided to stay at home and raise my daughters ’cause that’s what I needed. We didn’t need to make any more money. I needed them to be raised as best as they possibly could. It used to be that people don’t know your business — I remember when I first got to the NBA, they used to say what happens on the road stays on the road. So social networks have changed the way things are. By people having so much access to you, you have no time to yourself and the fact is that now they can get directly in touch with you now. It’s just, that’s not how it used to be. And now, anybody can be famous, and scandal is fame.
Does the show accurately portray the level of cheating in the league?
I don’t think there’s any cheating in the league. Because it doesn’t have anything to do with your job. It’s not that athletes get more sex than anybody else, I watch Jerry Springer, you don’t have to have teeth to have two women. If a girl decides to marry a professional athlete and she thinks she’s going to change the desires men have…I’ve found out from being around all these women is that women want honesty, they don’t want the truth. Those are two different things.
Do you worry that because of what some of the women on these shows have gone through, people will think a certain way about players?
Every person has these tendencies. I’m going to keep saying it, it has nothing to do with players or the job, 50% of all marriages, whether they are basketball players or not, end in divorce. There’s only 300 plus NBA players. If you want to blame it on athletes, it has nothing to do with the job, it’s harder actually because I’m on a bus, on a schedule, I don’t get to go have happy hour and enjoy my anonymity. That’s all lost.
When it comes to hosting these shows —
One of my favorite things on the planet. I couldn’t sleep last night, I couldn’t wait to do this.
Why do you love it so much?
I work really hard to remove the dumb jock mentality that a lot of NBA ballplayers take on. I went to Georgia Tech because I was able to get in academically and play sports. I take it extremely personally that I can show that I can do something outside of basketball. That’s why I like doing it.
I’m so glad to finally meet you, especially after seeing you so much lately, at the last reunion, and then on The T.O. Show. You really terrorized Kita.
Kita, I love Kita! Do you want some lunch?
[At this point John offers me some of his seitan and photo history is made. We lost track of the conversation for a bit so after chatting about the best vegan restaurants in New York and, our own marriages, and why the Pilgrims came to America (trust me, it all made sense in context) we got back on track.]
Are you friends with any of this cast?
Doug Christie‘s wife I knew, I had met Gloria, and everybody else I just met.
What do you think of Doug and Jackie’s relationship? They’ve been committed for so long.
You said committed. They do that when they put you in the crazy house. [Laughs] I think whatever keeps you and your relationship new…because the best sex is new sex, I don’t care what they say. She keeps it new. She reminds him “I’m your new bride” and they’ve got this role playing.
Have you ever been to one of their weddings?
No. I don’t like going to weddings, they remind me of funerals, same people show up and say the same s—.
What are you expecting to happen during the reunion?
To really, really have fun. And for these girls to be cordial.
Between L.A. and Miami, which cast would expect more fireworks from?
For more John Salley, check out his show on the Reelz Channel, Game On! With John Salley.
[Photo: Liz Black/VH1]