DENVER -- Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum stuck to his typical post-game routine after putting up 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and a block in Portland’s 123-109 victory versus the Nuggets Game 1 of the three-six Western Conference first round matchup Saturday night in Denver. He showered, swapped out his uniform for a stylish red suit, took a short bus ride from Ball Arena to the team hotel, enjoyed a catered meal and retired to his room to stream a few shows.
But before hitting play -- he’s currently working his way through “The Handmaid’s Tale” -- he made sure to complete an increasingly important part of his nightly routine when on the road: he lit a candle.
While many players have come to travel with creature comforts such as video game consoles, laptops, tablets and even recording equipment when they’re on the road with their respective teams, McCollum’s requirements trend much more analog. And he simply cannot do without bringing a collection of scented candles with him in order to make his temporary living space seem a little more palatable.
“I light candles all the time, we do it in our household at home,” said McCollum. “Obviously on the road I like the scent, I like the vibe it provides me. My (physical therapist) is here so when we do some stuff in the room, I light the candles, I watch games with the candles lit."
McCollum typically brings multiple candles -- be brought four to Denver -- in order to have distinct scent profiles in different parts of his suite. His wife makes candles as a hobby, so he typically has a large selection to chose from, though that doesn’t stop him from purchasing something new should he catch a scent that strikes his fancy.
“I’ve got a bathroom joint, joint for over there, joint by the master bed,” said McCollum. “You spread it out so you’ve got different scents when I’m watching TV on the couch versus when I’m laying down. If I’m gonna have a glass of wine, it’s a nice little vibe for me. I enjoy it, it’s peaceful for me.”
McCollum’s appreciation for wax and wick goes beyond the general appreciation for pleasant scents. For him, it’s a way to make life on the road feel a little less distant. Sense of smell is closely related to memory, perhaps more so than any other sense, so having access to scents that remind him of home is an effective way to make an otherwise nondescript rooms feel a bit more personalized.
“I like to burn my candles during the day, gives me good juju,” said McCollum. “The hotel smell, you don’t really like it... It changes the scent of the room, which is important because it doesn’t smell like home when you first walk in. You’re gonna be there for a little while so you want to try to enjoy it and make it homey.”
But while traveling with candles might not be the norm among McCollum’s NBA brethren, he’s not the only Trail Blazer who is packing paraffin, as Carmelo Anthony also brings candles with him on the road, and for much the same reason as McCollum.
“It gives you that homey feel, you feel at home sometimes,” said Anthony. “When you just want to relax, try a candle. I always like having a certain scent around me. It’s a sense of ease, a sense of peace when you light a candle and just relax.”
After putting up 18 points in Game 1, Anthony fired up a tangerine mango candle from Apothecary, though he’s always on the hunt for new scents from up and coming chandlers.
“I do change up, I like candle scents,” said Anthony. “I switch it up, I’m online. I like to test people’s candles out, see what they got going on. People who are like, up and coming, just starting up, I try to help them out, buy some candles and stuff. I’m always buying candles.
“It’s like wine, you’ve got just to try different things on to see what you like, see what you don’t.”
As for McCollum, he describes his olfactory preferences as “fruit-forward,” a parlance taken from the world of wine, another love he and Anthony have in common. In fact, McCollum has recently been enjoying candles which combine his love for wine and pleasant scents, a pairing that makes a lot of sense considering the importance of “nose,” the term used for the way a particular varietal smells when poured and swirled, in viticulture.
“I’ve been getting these wine-smelling candles, so like pinot blanc, cab, pinot noir, but they actually smell really good,” said McCollum. “The one I’ve got in my bathroom right now, it’s a really good smell. Obviously doesn’t smell like wine but it’s named after wine and has the same presence. It’s a super vibe. Big vibe.”