China’s social media platforms–basketball division–were buzzing this past week about NBA star James Harden’s visit, including his reaction to being told 10,000 bottles of his wine sold online in just seconds.
Harden, under contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, produces his wine with Accolade under the label, J-HARDEN, including a Cabernet and red blend from California as well as, more recently, a Prosecco.
Harden’s packed schedule during his China visit included an appearance on a livestream with prominent KOL ‘Little Brother Yang.’ Per People’s “NBA Star James Harden Does a Cartwheel After Selling Thousands of Wine Bottles Within Seconds During Livestream“:
“In the live stream… Yang asked Harden “how many bottles” of wine he normally sold in a day… Harden replied: ‘A few cases.’
“Yang then told the basketball star to watch how many wine orders he could make within just a few seconds during the livestream, per NBC. Harden told Yang, ‘Show me,’ as he crossed his arms and sat back to watch.
“According to NBC, Yang told viewers, ‘Ready? Go!’ He can be heard shouting ‘Stop!,’ a few seconds later in a video shared on Twitter Wednesday.”
The result? James was told 10,000 bottles in two-bottle packages, worth about USD500,000, had been sold in a few seconds. That number then quickly rose to 6,000 bottles, which inspired a cartwheel.
It’s best to be cautious in drawing conclusions about wine’s future in China from this situation, given all the hype surrounding Harden’s visit, that a good number of buyers might simply see the wine as novelty, that the true nature of a single sales events can be hard to determine, and so on, but it certainly is a juicy story.
Of a less fun-loving nature, Harden also attracted lots of attention during his trip by calling out the GM of the 76ers, Daryl Morey.
“Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden announced, twice.
This also had China implications as Morey created a massive backlash here in 2019 with a pro-Hong Kong independence tweet.
It raises uncertainty about Harden’s future with the 76er, who also employ 2023 NBA MVP Joel Embid. And with the NBA at large, as the 76ers have apparently been unable to find an appropriate trade partner for Harden, who has had contentious departures from both the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets in recent years.
One sports analyst has suggested Harden instead play in China in a move akin to Lionel Messi moving to Miami to play in the MLS (Major League Soccer). If he does, maybe he can partner with Little Brother Yang for more wine sales.
There is no shortage of links between the NBA and wine, with a growing number of current and former players and coaches investing in wineries and/or launching personal brands in recent years.
China’s own NBA star Yao Ming famously did so a dozen years ago with Yao Family Wines. (He released this special wine to mark his 2016 entry into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame alongside Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson. And his chief wine consultant, Tom Hinde, formerly of Flowers and Kendall-Jackson, visited Ningxia in 2014.)
Dwayne Wade also released his wine in China in 2015. Other past and present NBAers involved in wine include Carmelo Anthony, CJ McCollum, Stephen Curry, Channing Frye, Tony Parker, Kevin Love and Gregg Popovich. LeBron James is also a well-known wine aficionado. (Fun fact: I helped to secure wines from Kanaan and Silver Heights in Ningxia for James to try during a China visit in 2017.)
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