Wine and basketball obviously don’t mix too well on the court, but plenty of players seem to enjoy good bottles during downtime or when they have a break from games. ‘It’s kind of a culture that’s intertwined with the league,’ says 27-year-old Harkless, who grew up in Queens, New York and played college basketball for St John’s Red Storm before making his NBA debut in 2012. He’s humble about his own knowledge, but he has hosted ‘Wine Wednesday’ via Instagram Live for Uninterrupted, the multimedia production group cofounded by LeBron James – who just won the NBA title with LA Lakers – and business partner Maverick Carter. ‘When I talk to the older guys in the league I feel some of them are wine connoisseurs,’ he says, mentioning players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. ‘These guys have been preaching the wine stuff for years.’
At Portland Trail Blazers he would use days off to visit Oregon wine country. ‘During the summer we’d go up there for a couple of days and hit a few different places,’ he says. ‘Initially it was just a couple of guys that were interested in going. As my years there went on, it went from like two guys to six or seven guys.’
Alongside tasting, Harkless has highlighted black-owned wine businesses and restaurants via the Black Lives Now initiative on his website, which also includes links to advice on voter registration and mental health services, plus black contemporary artists and music. ‘I turned my website into a resource hub to support everything going on right now,’ he says. ‘When I did my research there were hundreds of black-owned wine businesses and to me that was a surprise because I’d never heard of a lot of them,’ he says. ‘I’ve taken time to start to try to get to know some of them.’
What would be the first celebration meal back in L.A? If you were away for four of the most physically and mentally demanding months of your life? If you’re Anthony Davis, the answer is simple: birria de chivo. The first-time NBA champion feasted on Huetamo, Michoacán-style chile-and-spice simmered goat quesatacos by way of La Autentica Birrieria yesterday. The popular lonchera based in North Hollywood posted a photo on their Instagram account featuring the NBA All-Star smiling ear-to-ear alongside the truck’s owner, Jaime Arana, yesterday.
CJ McCollum never expected his wine, McCollum Heritage 91, to sell out in less than an hour, but that’s exactly what happened when his Oregon pinot noir launched in mid-September. “To be honest, I don’t think it could’ve gone much better,” he said. With the launch, McCollum officially joined a group of NBA players who have their own wine labels, a list that includes Channing Frye, Dwyane Wade, and Yao Ming. But McCollum’s passion for wine has been years in the making, and it blossomed over the summer, when McCollum was living in the “NBA Bubble.” He turned his entire hotel room into a refrigerator in order to keep his collection of 84 wines at the correct temperature.
Wine wasn’t always a part of McCollum’s life. “Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to what goes into making wine, or what goes into drinking wine,” he said. “As a Black man who is now in the wine world, I would encourage more Black men and women, and minorities in general, to learn more about wine and be open to exploring it.”
McCollum hasn’t announced concrete plans for additional wines, but he alluded to a 2019 vintage that’s in the works, as well as venturing beyond pinot noir. In the meantime, McCollum plans to keep doing what he’s been doing. “I know a lot more about wine than I did seven years ago, and even two years ago, but I’m still continuing to learn and grow.”