Yao Ming is now battling with Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Mario Andretti and Greg Norman.
But this isn't some made-for-television poker game featuring former sports greats. Yao is joining the ranks of retired athletes with their own winery. This week the eight-time NBA All-Star is launching Yao Family Wines, a California outpost that will be focused on the Chinese market.
"I really like Napa Valley," Yao told the Wall Street Journal. "California represents vacation, casual [living], sunshine -- everything related to a good quality of life."
Not that the 31-year-old always had a taste for the finer things in life. He knew very little about wine growing up and watched as the people around his hometown of Shanghai poured it over ice cubes. It took a lesson from former teammate Dikembe Mutombo, who was swirling his glass at dinner, to kick-start his interest.
"I always watched him at our dinners and I'd sometimes ask him 'Why are you doing that?'" Yao told the Journal. "I was just trying to copy him."
Now, Yao will copy Mike Ditka, Arnold Palmer and so many other retired athletes who've entered the wine game -- to varying success. His first offering is a cabernet sauvignon made with Napa Valley grapes harvested in 2009. But Houston Rockets fans will need to check their ATM balance before they think of buying it. The 7-foot-6 Yao has priced the bottle out of reach of most wine drinkers at $289.
Yao Family Reserve, a 500-case production available later this year, will be even more expensive. (You can see the entire selection of Yao Family Wine here.)
Fans have spent hundreds for a pair of Air Jordans for decades. Now the question is will they triple that for a little Ming merlot with dinner?
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