NBA Players Weren't Satisfied With the Wine Selection in 'The Bubble' So They're Shipping in Their Own
They're also kicking back between games with curated tastings.
In early July, almost 1,400 players, coaches, and assorted personnel from 22 NBA teams traveled to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a collection of properties that have become the "NBA Bubble." The teams who go deep into the playoffs or make it to the NBA Finals could have to stay within the bubble's borders until mid-October, so athletes are doing what they can to make their (already plush) surroundings as comfortable as possible.
Shortly after arriving, unpacking, and starting their mandatory period of self-isolation, some players started posting pictures of their sad-looking meals, with plastic-wrapped entrees and single-use everything. The league has since called in Master Chef Shawn Loving—the chef for the U.S. men's national basketball team—to start prepping some healthier (and more Insta-worthy) meals. Loving and his team are now making between 120 and 140 meals a day, after basically "starting a restaurant from scratch" in the bubble. “It's a lot of movin' and groovin' man but proud to do it,” Loving told the Detroit Free Press. "We've hit a stride and we're in great shape.”
Now that the food situation has been sorted, some players have turned their attention to something even more important: their wine selections. According to ESPN, they've ordered cases of wine from their personal wine brokers, from wine shops, wine clubs, and vineyards. New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick and his teammate Josh Hart have both bought 18-20 bottle wine fridges, while Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has turned his entire room into a fridge, ensuring that his 84 bottle stash will never be exposed to temperatures above 60 degrees.
Hart said that being able to have a glass of wine gives him a sense of "grounding and normalcy" during this totally weird time. "Obviously, there's a little bit of alcohol, so it gets you more relaxed and loose," he told the outlet. "But the bigger thing is, this is an uncomfortable time in terms of not being with family, not being in your own house, your own bed for at least six, seven weeks."
And it's not just individual players: the Brooklyn Nets have brought in their own wines for team dinners, while Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul helped to arrange a five-course wine tasting dinner—complete with a sommelier discussing each selection—for his teammates. The players' union, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), said it's planning a delivery of Tuscan wines from Frescobaldi, and will also give a bottle of Cheurlin Champagne to any player who has a birthday while he's in the bubble.
McCollum says he's taking advantage of this time to expand his knowledge of wine, through curated tastings and lengthy discussions with other players. "[K]ind of going through those things to where you truly understand and share and appreciate the wine with someone, it leads to a lot of great conversations and a lot of eventful evenings," he said.