The NBA’s love affair with wine has dominated the intersection of sports and beverage media. Photos abound of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ team tastings at Mayacamas Vineyards while the Heat’s Jimmy Butler has released YouTube tours of his journeys through Napa and Italy. Inside the NBA “bubble” of the 2020 season, Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum famously turned his hotel room into walk-in wine fridge to keep his collection temperature controlled.
However, in the league’s unofficial wine club, perhaps no figure stands taller than LeBron James.
One of the game’s greatest players, James’s taste in bottles looms as large as his presence on the court. But it’s social media where he’s connected with the public, drawing attention to wine in a way many celebrity partnerships strive to achieve.
Several current and former NBA stars may have gone into the wine business. While James has invested in pizza chains and Tequila, the man who’s been photographed walking into Los Angeles’s Staples Center with a glass of red in hand is one the league’s few wine cognoscenti who hasn’t yet pivoted to production.
It may also be why grainy photos of James’s Sunday night wine parties and Instagram Live videos have resonated so strongly. Without a personal label to promote, James seems content to simply share bottles he enjoys—Sassicaia, Quintarelli Giuseppe, Corison, Pontet-Canet—while playing cards at the dinner table.
In a world of slick photo shoots featuring dramatic sunsets in manicured vineyards, the biggest name in basketball shares his passion of wine the way we do: in his kitchen, often blurry, with a bottle in one hand and cell phone in the other.
Pass The Bottle
These NBA players are among those who have taken a shot at creating their own labels:
Retired NBA player Yao Ming may have started the trend with his Napa Valley Yao Family Wines, launched in 2012.
Dwyane Wade, former Miami Heat guard, launched D Wade Cellars California wine in collaboration with winemaker Jason Pahlmeyer, in 2015.
Former New York Knicks player Amar’e Stoudemire launched his kosher, Israeli Stoudemire Private Collection in 2018.
Seth Curry, of the Philadelphia 76ers, is making a Willamette Valley wine with Momtazi Vineyards, under the Triskelion label, launched in 2020.
Channing Frye, of the Portland Trail Blazers, created Chosen Family Wines in partnership with L’Angolo Wines, in the Willamette Valley, last year.