Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Kevin Love and more will be talking bottles and basketball on Zoom with John Kapon of Acker Wines.

By Mike Pomranz
September 15, 2020
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Carmelo Anthony
Joe Murphy / Contributor/Getty Images

More so than America’s other team sports, the NBA is a personality-driven league. And in recent years, an increasingly common personality trait has been a love of fine wine. As the biggest name in the game, LeBron James has helped lead the charge with his “supercomputer”-like knowledge. But he’s just the tip of the iceberg: In fact, when the NBA entered “the bubble” back in July, players and teams were so unsatisfied with the wine selection that they were having bottles shipped in.

So what is the NBA’s obsession with wine? If you want to hear the answers from players themselves, America’s oldest wine shop—Acker Wines—is offering than chance to share virtual glasses with some of basketball’s biggest names as part of a totally free, multi-week online tasting series: All-Stars Uncorked.

Beginning on September 22 for five consecutive Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET, Acker Chairman John Kapon will be talking—and tasting—with five current and former NBA players on Zoom: J.J. Redick, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Kevin Love, and Kyle Kuzma. Each one-hour session will allow wine-loving basketball fans not only to listen in to the discussion, but also ask questions and even taste along by purchasing corresponding wine packages from the Acker website.

“We first started hosting Virtual Wine Tastings via Zoom at the start of the pandemic as a way for us to continue to do what we love—enjoy and share great wine together,” Kapon told me. They began with industry professionals before choosing to branch out. “With so many NBA stars having such a well-documented passion for wine, and a few even going so far as to become winemakers themselves, it presented as a great opportunity. There is such an enthusiastic following for world-class athletes, and their preferences for wine are most definitely top-line, as they post some of the rarest wines imaginable on social media. As the experts in the wine space, we wanted to open up the forum to demystify a lot of what players and fans may not know about wine—and turn it into fun, approachable conversation.”

This new tasting series is Acker’s first public project working with NBA stars, but Kapon said they had little trouble connecting with enthusiastic players, in part due to Acker’s existing reputation as a world-class wine store and auction house. From there, the shop spoke with the players to determine what wines would be discussed during the tastings.

“We reached out to learn a little bit more about their wine background, and if there were any wines or wine regions they wanted to explore further,” Kapon continued. “There is this beautiful intersection between NBA players and wine—a lot of players have traveled to some of the best wine regions around the world and then shared the bottles from their travels with other players, spreading the fine wine gospel throughout the league. That’s always been our philosophy on wine, and in its essence, what wine is all about—enjoying it with friends and trying new wines to see what you like best before you buy your own. Everyone is always searching for the next ‘wow’ wine that’s going to blow everyone away.”

For instance, with Redick, the conversation will revolve around Burgundy. Pierce promises to discuss his love of Syrahs. And third-year Lakers forward Kuzma will engage in a “three-on-three Cabernet showdown.” As a current LeBron teammate, maybe he’ll be able to offer some tidbits on what King James has been sipping on recently, too.

Registration is currently open for all five Zoom sessions, and the number of attendees is capped at 10,000 each. The only other issue to be aware of is that the sessions will exclusively air live, so don’t expect to find a stream after the fact.

As for tasting the wines themselves, Acker promises they are coming soon. A “bubble” package will offer a selection of wines billed as favorites among NBA stars. But since most of us don’t earn an NBA salary, the online store will also have a curated list of wines similar to those bottles at a more approachable price point.