At the top of the screen is retired NBA legend Dwyane Wade. At the bottom is Portland Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony, talking to the camera, except the sound is muted. “I don’t know why we can’t hear Melo, man,” says Wade. The Instagram Live begins as so many do—with technical difficulty. The NBA superstars are meeting up for the now–de rigueur virtual happy hour, but if schoolteachers and middle managers are showing up to Zoom with Quarantinis, a certain echelon of NBA players is making do with their deep collection of wine.
“Neither of us are master somms,” says Wade, settling into the first episode of an impromptu show he’s dubbed “The Wine Down.” Wearing a black hoodie, as his actress wife Gabrielle Union occasionally pops into the frame, Wade sits before an array of bottles and sips on his own label, Wade Cellars, made by Napa Valley producer Jayson Pahlmeyer. Wade says a friend got him into Burgundy, and now he spends a lot of time drinking French.
Filling the lower half of the screen, Anthony is wearing a backwards cap, his quarantine stubble filling in. He says he’s drinking a nice Burgundy, later coyly revealing it to be Domaine Jean Grivot's Nuits Saint-Georges Aux Boudots from 2010, which retails for about $200. “I started off with just dabbling, just drinking, going to restaurants—‘Let me get a glass of wine,’” he says, before admitting he went through a Yellow Tail phase. Eventually though, Anthony invested time and money into learning, acquiring a collection while dining through New York and Paris, and, as reported by ESPN’s senior NBA writer Baxter Holmes in 2018, even traveling to away games with a six-bottle wine suitcase.
A week after Wade’s entrée into Instagram Live, Anthony started his own ad hoc show called “What’s in Your Glass.” In the first episode, he hosts Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, while opening a bottle of William Fèvre Chablis from 2011. “You know, that’s a first for me,” says Anthony, who rarely drinks white wine. Anthony hassles Butler, known for his intense workouts, asking him how many lockdown pushups he’s doing per day, while Butler drinks a bottle of 2010 Sassicaia. In a subsequent episode, Anthony talks with entrepreneur and internet wine personality, Gary Vaynerchuk, who digs into his cellar for an amarone from the cult producer Dal Forno Romano while the two discuss how “legit” Oregon pinot noir is. “This whole Willamette Valley, it’s special, it’s poppin’,” says Anthony, who visited Domaine Serene Winery before Oregonians were ordered to shelter in place.
There is something endearing about observing these larger-than-life figures, relaxing in sweats, chatting with their buddies on a Friday night over drinks. (“I’m getting a little tipsy,” Wade tells Anthony at one point, before topping off his glass.) It’s a keyhole perspective, a glimpse into their off-court personalities and preferences intertwined with stories of what it was like to go head-to-head with Kobe Bryant or vacation with LeBron James. Until the era of self-isolation, we could only presume their private lives were this enviable, but like many of us, their livelihoods and raisons d’etre are currently on hold, and they’re killing time, waiting for the quarantine clock to wind down.
“The virus has taken from players the thing most people know them for and follow them for,” says ESPN writer Holmes. “They’re inside their homes for the foreseeable future and the options for what they can do are pretty limited.”
Over 11,000 Instagram users tuned in to watch Wade and Anthony’s happy hour. If wine content generally doesn’t do well on American television—too stuffy, too nerdy, too unrelatable—this unique format with these guys in particular might be revealing a whole new entry point. Seeing players in this context, still working out their taste in wine like the rest of us, casts them in an unexpectedly human light. Holmes supposes that in times like these, it’s comforting to see such well-known faces doing normal things, even if those “normal” things are drinking $200 bottles of Burgundy. And we’ll likely be in for more. Before Wade signed off, Anthony summed up the predicament of many: “I got nothing but time and wine.”