‘I haven’t stopped my passion since I’ve been in the league,’ says former NBA star CJ McCollum

When CJ McCollum was drafted first overall in 2012 by the Portland Trail Blazers, he went to an institution that established modern basketball. The forward worked alongside LaMarcus Aldridge at their Farmington, Arizona summer…

'I haven't stopped my passion since I've been in the league,' says former NBA star CJ McCollum

When CJ McCollum was drafted first overall in 2012 by the Portland Trail Blazers, he went to an institution that established modern basketball. The forward worked alongside LaMarcus Aldridge at their Farmington, Arizona summer training camp, before being drafted, and plays at The Q on Saturday as he attempts to go one better by winning his first All-Star team selection.

He has had a remarkable rookie season, which has earned him well beyond his NBA debut of 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He has also led Portland in scoring 13 times and in assists 14 times, all of which is league-leading.

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He has some astronomical potential, but that potential has come from a different place, and that comes from McCollum’s passion for alcohol. “I haven’t stopped my passion since I’ve been in the league,” said McCollum. “It’s actually only become more of a passion for me. I’ve been around a lot of drunk people over the years and just thought I’d try something new.

“As my career went on, I realised there wasn’t a lot of really good wine and good beers to drink when I was down there. I was just kinda bored, I guess, so I thought I’d try it. I was one of those little kids who would go out and cut flowers all the time and my dream was to be the best cut flower guy in the world, but then I got me turned around and started growing up.

“It’s just the one thing I loved and where I could really get into it and learn about it. When I was little I didn’t know what wine was, so the first thing I thought was, what is table wine and what does it taste like? That was something I didn’t really understand, and from that, I would look up how many oak barrels they kept and learned how they made wine and then started reading up and would hang out with my friends that had really good wineries and get access to everything.”

McCollum’s passion led him to become a regular at one of the leading wineries in Arizona. He now owns Winetasting University, which is a membership site that teaches the finer points of wine tasting. “I don’t think I can ever go through it all, so I have a list of my favourite wines and I just enjoy every day that I get to taste it and try new things,” he added.

He learned a number of facts from his experiences in the Wine Under Glass magazine, and has become a go-to source for fans of wine to ask questions and find out more about its bottles. “The science is real, and it helps them make their wines taste like more of themselves,” he said. “There are hundreds of wines in there that you can go back and reference stuff on and see what kind of science went into the production of these wine. It’s something I’m not going to stop that passion for. I want to continue.”

Some of his advice on finding the perfect wine is simple. “I always say take a month to see what you like and then go out and get it.”

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