Carmelo Anthony Talks Going Into The Bubble, Gifting Kobe A ’96 Barbaresco Wine & More With Haute Living & Wine Access

When the illustrious worlds of wine and the NBA first collided some years ago, it seemed like an unlikely pairing—like a big and bold, fruit-forward Napa Cab and a delicate and flaky branzino. It was confusing, to most, or at least, we thought, there were better pairings out there. Traditionally, at that time, we’d seen professional basketball stars of the world solely fulfilling their superstar sportsmen roles, which were comprised of making stellar contributions on the court and maybe some off the court.

However, as the relationship between wine and the NBA continued to unfold, it became more and more clear that the union made a lot more sense than we first thought. In fact, at some point, it even felt somewhat surprising that the pairing didn’t happen earlier—like when you discover a big, bold, fruit-forward Napa Cab that actually does complement that delicate and flaky branzino.

But the truth is, it actually did happen earlier… much earlier; it was just much more the secret wine society than the Instagram-heavy one, like today. The reality is that as long as the NBA has been one of the most-watched and loved sporting leagues in the U.S. and the world, the best of the best in the league’s almost superhuman-like performances on the wood has granted them entry through doors that are not just restricted to the average person—and even the average professional basketball player—but also through those doors that the average person didn’t even know existed. While news of the famed “Banana Boat Crew” surfaced just a couple of years ago, the league’s elite were already bonified oenophiles by that time, having dedicated much of their down time to wine education and experience, visiting some of the most coveted wineries and regions in the world and building personal connections and collections that would give any seasoned somm a run for their money.

At the forefront of this NBA wine movement was Carmelo Anthony, an NBA GOAT, Olympic Gold medalist, 10-time All-Star who now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers—soon to be playing in “the bubble”—and Haute Time co-founder. Having begun his wine journey over a decade ago, the self-proclaimed Bordeaux and Burgundy fanatic attributes wine to so many facets of his life that make him the person he is today. Whether it be some of his most memorable trips across the globe, most meaningful friendships, most noteworthy meals or even the most helpful decompressions after a high-level, adrenaline-infused game day—[“wine is my kind of decompression mechanism,” he says]—the gilded grape has played a pivotal role in shaping Melo, the man.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony

Photo Credit: Haute Living via Zoom

There are so many signs that indicate that he’s a real aficionado: he’s been known to travel with a stocked wine case; he brings his own bottles to restaurants for dinner; he has his own podcast called “What’s in your Glass”; and he even has a two-in-one decanter that houses two bottles simultaneously—which happened to make a cameo in our live chat on Zoom. But most importantly, he knows, like all the real ones do, that when it comes to wine, price does not necessarily equate to greatness; rather, just as he’s opened so many of those restricted doors as a world-class athlete with the stats to match, being able to taste truly, some of the greatest wines on earth, is about access.

Deyvanshi Masrani, Kamal Hotchandani
(L-R) Deyvanshi Masrani, Kamal Hotchandani

Knowing this, it only made sense that in addition to joining myself and Kamal Hotchandani, CEO of Haute Living, we bring Wine Access into the mix as well, with their apt motto, “The barrier to the world’s best wine isn’t price. It’s access.” Head of Wine for Wine Access, Vanessa Conlin—also one of only 53 Masters of Wine in the U.S.—guided us through a beautiful tasting of three gorgeous bottles of wine: a 2014 Masseto Toscana IGT, a 2017 Domaine Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru Burgundy and a 2008 Latour. While sipping for almost an hour-and-a-half, Melo reminisced on some of his most memorable wine experiences and stories, taking us from Cuba to Puerto Rico to Paris and more. Enjoy the below highlights and be sure to check out the full video at the bottom of the article, or on the HAUTE TV YouTube page, as well.

Vanessa Conlin
Vanessa Conlin

Photo Credit: Haute Living via Zoom

ON WINE BEING HIS DECOMPRESSION MECHANISM OF CHOICE

My personal experience with wine after a game, it really helps me decompress quicker. We spend our whole day preparing for a two-hour game, where you have to be at the top of your game every single night, so you exhaust so much energy physically, emotionally and mentally for two hours. For the whole day you exhausted so much energy to prepare for two hours. So, after that, you’re still on a high, you’re still going—your adrenaline is still going after a game. In order to bring your adrenaline back down, a glass of wine does that instantly. It relaxes you, it calms you down, it soothes you. So, when you go home, you don’t have trouble sleeping. I find it very important to me and it’s part of my training; I know how hard I work and I know I need something to bring me down in a natural way. I don’t want to take pills or anything else, other than something that I know is working and is beneficial for me, and also, I enjoy it. I enjoy coming home after a game, or going to a restaurant, sitting down, opening up a bottle of wine, drinking a glass and just relaxing.

ON GIFTING KOBE BRYANT A SPECIAL BOTTLE OF WINE FROM HIS DRAFT YEAR

He [Kobe Bryant] was getting into [wine]. He loved his Italian wines, obviously. We did a great gesture for him. I remember All-Star Weekend in Toronto a couple years back. It was his last season and it was his last All-Star game. I gifted him a 1996—I don’t want to get the bottle wrong, so I’m not going to say the name, I’ll figure it out for you…and it was a magnum too. But the reason why we gave [it to] him…that was the year that he got drafted into the NBA. I didn’t know what to get him, but I wanted to get him something that he can enjoy, something he can drink. But also, it ties back into a special moment in his life. So, as he’s drinking that wine, he’s reminiscing on what happened in 1996, the day that he got drafted, and the day that changed his whole life. That was a very special moment that night. [Toward of the end of the conversation, Carmelo remembered what the wine was] It just came to me what the wine was! It was a 1996 Magnum Barbaresco.

ON PELÉ’S SECURITY TEAM RECOVERING HIS CONFISCATED ’86 MARGAUX AT THE CUBAN AIRPORT

Coming back from Cuba, I remember I had an ‘86 Margaux. And that was the only bottle that we saved [because] I said we need something to drink on the way back. So, we go to the airport in Cuba, we go through the line and the security check, and I actually forget to put the wine in my luggage. And as I’m going through, they grabbed my 1986 Margaux; they just throw the Margaux in a trash bin. All I hear is the bottle clanking [against] other bottles. I’m like, ‘What just happened here?’ I look in the trashcan and I see 100 bottles of wine and liquor, and at the top, it was a 1986 Margaux…The only thing I kept saying is, ‘Where’s Pelé? I need Pelé to hurry up and get here,’ because we needed his security team to talk to the airport people and get the wine back. All I cared about was that wine at the end of the day…I really wanted that wine! His team did a phenomenal job of pleading—we even had the military there trying to get that wine, the head of the airport trying to get that wine! Eventually, we got the wine at the end of the day. That story was incredible but going through it and dealing with it, I was a little nervous, I was upset, [laughs] I was angry because I was really looking forward to drinking that wine but most importantly, I didn’t like how they handled my wine. They took it and tossed it into the trashcan!

ON WHAT TO EXPECT GOING INTO THE BUBBLE IN ORLANDO & CONTINUING TO USE HIS PLATFORM TO SPEAK TO THE ISSUES THE U.S. FACES

I think at the end of the day, it will be a great experience. I think what’s happening now is the unknown of it, nobody knows what’s going to happen. Yes, we’re getting information daily, updates daily, but there’s still an unknown of what’s going to happen. So, we can plot and plan and say this and say that, do this, do that, but we won’t know until we actually get there on how all of this is actually going to play out. It’s the unknown that everybody is kind of on edge about. But once we get there and start playing, it’s going to ease the bubble factor a lot. Also, for me, I’m going to make it fun for myself. I’m going to bring my wine; I’m going to have these experiences with guys that are down there. You’re talking about being in ‘bubble’ for three months, right? So, you need to figure out ways to maneuver through that and be creative and talk to people and just enjoy the days because a lot of times—just to give you a little insight of what an NBA day is like—you practice in the morning for two or three hours then you have the rest of your day…Game days are locked down but outside of that, it’s one of the easiest schedules in sports that we can have because again, we practice for a couple of hours and then everybody’s just on their own after that. I say that to say I’ll bring a lot of wine to Orlando, ‘What’s in your Glass’ [my podcast] will be live from the bubble, so I’ll send you guys the address!…[But] it’s the ultimate sacrifice at the end of the day. This is a major, major sacrifice. Just being down there and sacrificing and taking the chance in this world with what’s happening whether it’s COVID, whether it’s social injustices that’s happening, we’re taking the chance, but we also understand the power that we have. The unknown of being there is one aspect of it but being able to have this platform to execute something that we really want to execute—one message, what do we stand for…this is an opportunity for the NBA to come out with a strong message, the NBA as a whole, as an association, but also as players too. As players I’m sure we’re going to come together, we’re going to figure something out, we’re going to talk…have these uncomfortable conversations that people don’t want to have…They [the NBA] want to make it fun for us at the end of the day—we’re going to bring everything there! We’re going to have live DJs, we’re going to have games, we’re going to be able to go outside…we’re still at Disney at the end of the day…[But] I didn’t want people to think that we would be distracted by what’s continuing to happen in our society, community and country. I know for a fact, that’s not going to happen. We’d never use our game to walk away or turn our back to what’s happening out there in the world. If anything, we’ll be using this platform to enhance the message of what’s happening and bring it to the forefront…it is what it is, and we have to make the best of it. I’m carrying my own 12-case [of wine] with me and everything else will be shipped [laughs].

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