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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

The NBA Is Obsessed with Wine. Here’s How It Happened.

In recent years, the NBA has developed a well-earned reputation as a wine-splashed league. The shift is obvious—a peek at social media reveals superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry coolly posing with glassfuls of prestigious vino. Some players even have their own wine labels. But it didn’t get this way overnight—it took the league decades to fully embrace its oenophile status.

Everything culminated with an early April announcement by the NBA that it had inked a deal with Kendall-Jackson, which produces the country’s best-selling Chardonnay, to be its first official wine partner. (At the same time, La Crema, became the official wine of the WNBA—both La Crema and Kendall-Jackson are owned by Jackson Family Wines.)

Is a sports league with an official wine partner really such big news? The NFL has one—it named Barefoot Wine as its sponsor in 2023. And MLB announced Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge brand as its official wine ahead of the 2020 season. But the NBA’s deal is inherently player-driven, making it unique.

“Authenticity is super important for us, especially when it comes to partnering in spaces where we know our players are passionate,” says Jared Blechman, the NBA’s vice president and head of business development, who helped broker the deal. “When this opportunity became available, we wanted to align with the right partner to build on the culture that already exists and grow that passion throughout the league.”

The earliest beginnings of the NBA’s wine culture can be traced back nearly 30 years, when a certain legendary coach made his own passion for good wine a centerpiece of team bonding. Here, Wine Enthusiast charts the most significant moments in the NBA wine-drinking journey, from the ’90s to today.

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