In recent years, fine wine has gone together with the NBA like the pick goes with the roll. Wine is an obsession of the league's biggest star. Players have been hosting virtual tastings and working to make the industry more inclusive. And just last month, CJ McCollum became possibly the first active player to own his own vineyard. Now, the wine industry is getting another huge basketball connection: Dwyane Wade has teamed up with one of the world's top winemaking education programs.
Earlier this week, the University of California, Davis' Department of Viticulture and Enology announced that the three-time NBA Champion and 13-time All-Star had joined its 26-member Executive Leadership Board. In the announcement, the department cited not only Wade's work as co-founder of Wade Cellars in Napa Valley, but also his activism for social equality through organizations like The Wade Family Foundation and Social Change Fund United.
"I'm excited to join forces with UC Davis to support their efforts in bringing more diversity to the wine industry and make it more inclusive," the former basketball star was quoted as saying by the university. "Wine is for everyone, and I look forward to working with my fellow board members to create meaningful and impactful change. Together we hope to reach and inspire our community to pursue a career in the wine industry by creating a more equitable and viable pathway to achieve those dreams."
Joining Wade as board members are Julia Coney, a wine writer and founder of Black Wine Professionals, as well as Miguel Luna, who stated that he was "committed to educating immigrant parents to navigate the American school system to ensure first-generation Americans are prepared to succeed in higher education."
"All of our new board leaders have really unique skills to help the department achieve our strategic goals," David Block, professor and chair of the viticulture and enology department, stated. "They bring excellent communication skills, a passion for diversifying the industry and making sure students receive a great education and fulfilling career, and a passion for wine."
Still, Wade is clearly the biggest name in the group, and adding someone with such a diverse resume beyond the wine world seems like a coup for expanding the program's reach. "The reason I got into this industry in the first place is to make wine feel more accessible. I wanted to bring it to my community in a not-intimidating way," Wade said according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "If I can make a big impact on a board with the number one wine school in the world, then I think I can really make a difference."
The Chronicle also reports that, currently, underrepresented minority enrollment in UC Davis's wine program is about 25 percent of students, up from only 5 percent a decade ago. The addition of a high-profile personality like Wade will likely help the department continue to hit its targets. As Block quipped to the newspaper, "I think it would be fair to say this is the first person with 18 million followers on Instagram on the board."