Sports and alcohol don´t go hand in hand. Or they shouldn´t do in theory. This does not seem to apply to wine, and in recent years a real obsession with wine appears to be in place at NBA.
The name of Lebron James is often associated with wine. It is not unusual to find wine mentioned in Jame´s Instagram account. But he is not the only one! Names like Stephen Curry, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, or Chris Paul, to name but just a few, can also be grouped amongst wine fans.
It is not easy to explain why NBA players are into wine. There is probably not just one single reason. In 2016 Jimmy Butler traveled to Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games with a wine case. Many NBA stars travel with wine and share their favorite wines with other team members.
This passion is not 100% new. It may have been given more exposure thanks to social media, but many famous sports stars have enjoyed the bug of wine and even start wine ventures.
An example from Spain: football or soccer is Spain´s most important sport, and Real Madrid is its top team. A generation of soccer stars known as La Quinta del Buitre, went crazy about wine after having enjoyed a day wine trip near Madrid. Soon after they decided to open their own winery in the early 2000s. The business did not work out as expected, but who said loving wine and being famous was a guarantee for business success. This is just an example in Spain, a way to illustrate that NBA stars passion for wine is not an isolated case.
What could be behind NBA stars’ love for wine? Today´s basketball reality is connected to unseen hours of training and attention to detail. Players pay attention to many variables behind success or failure. This attention to detail and the analytics behind today´s games may explain the attention paid by NBA stars to issues like soil, weather, grape, cork, and many wine production aspects. One thing seems clear; the NBA love affair with wine seems, like old vines, well rooted in stable soils.
NBA retired pivot Yao Ming started a wine business with an eye on China and his fame to guarantee success. Larry Bird partnered with Mitch Consentino to create his own “game-winning wines”. It will not be a surprise to see many future stars investing time and money in wineries. Team-buildings have been organized at wineries, superstars like Carmelo Anthony joined top-level wine tasting clubs. The passion is not just about drinking, but about understanding what lies behind a great wine. Carmelo Antony, after a good number of years of interest in wine and lots of time dedicated to learn and taste, has recently launched his own wine. Many will probably follow.
For younger players joining the trend may not be so simple though. Wine can become a complicated matter and it can also end up being intimidating. But many players start to find an interest in wine when they approach their 30s.
To many alcohol and sports should not work well together. We should first think about other alternatives. There have always been parties, and wine seems like a much safer option compared to many other options… Some players do actually provide hints about the benefits of wine on health and use the French paradox as an argument to justify their love for wine. Another good reason is that wine and discussions about wine help players to get their minds off basketball, something interesting to ensure pressure before crucial matches is released and players find a way to relax. In this sense, wine helps as a catalyst or a distraction. Alternatives may not beseem to be as healthy as a relaxing glass of wine and a chat with friends about this or that vineyard!
The list of NBA stars that can speak about their favorite wines, grapes, and even years is long. Coach Gregg Popovich has for sure had a great influence on wine in the NBA, and so has Carmelo Antony, Lebron James or Jimmy Butler. But the list of players in love with wine is long; Dwyane Wade,Kevin Love, Draymond Green, Chris Paul, Chris Miller, Ryan Anderson (who spent his honeymoon in New Zealand partially to enjoy local wines!) CJ McCollum, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the list goes on and on.
Basketball players have been on the cover of reputed Wine Enthusiast magazine, foodandwine and media all over the US have covered this trend. This would be every PR expert dream: a group of sports superstars, with millions of followers in social networks, rich, famous, and young (with many years ahead of them to develop their hobby and spread the word) that speak openly and acting almost as activists in favor of wine. Many wine regions all over the world would love to see their wineries visited by NBA players, their wines in the large hands of these sports icons. Wine tourism also benefits from this huge Pr impact. The idea of having top NBA players having fun and enjoying a wine region in Spain is enough to make many people in the Spanish wine trade and wine tourism business dream.
Basketball players enjoying wine, for sure do not come out as immature, and many are husbands, fathers, investors, and they are really interested in wine. It is obvious that elite wineries find a great opportunity in this trend. NBA players do not seem to pay attention to bottles everyday wine aficionados drink. Bringing the best wine bottle has become a competition for NBA players attending a dinner. They are competitive sportsmen: and their hobby is also translated into a game to bring the best to a table.
The NBA wine craze is mainly about top brands and super luxury wines. But there may be a way to bring wine, today considered as a super elitist product, to many basketball fans who are not exposed to it. But this would imply getting the benefits NBA stars to find in their hobby approachable to all budgets, not an easy quest, but one worthing trying.
Wine is portrayed by some NBA players not just as a fashionable thing, but also as a deeper icon to show who they are. This is great news for anyone who thinks wine can enrich food, improve curiosity, enjoy the flavor, and connect with a relaxed way to understand life. Wine is something precious that can be collected, a product deep-rooted in the land, the culture of a region, and its people. These values are not just valid for the most expensive bottles. A player like Lebron James has passed his values about wine to the rest of the league.
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