Two-time NBA champion and 1990 NBA Finals MVP Isiah Thomas has had plenty of reasons to pop a bottle or two during his prestigious Hall of Fame career. These days, he’s got plenty of other reasons to celebrate as the owner of Cheurlin Champagne.
He recently sat down with Suns.com last week to chat about Cheurlin Champagne’s new partnership with the Phoenix Suns, his battles against the Suns, the culture shift in Phoenix and more.
Let’s start by chatting a little bit about Cheurlin Champagne, the Official Champagne of the Phoenix Suns and also the Official Champagne of the NBA Players Association. How did you get started in the champagne business, and what has that experience been like?
"It's been a great experience. I co-founded a popcorn company called Popcorn Indiana, and when I sold that company I was looking for my next venture to go into. I looked at the champagne space, and what I discovered is that here in the U.S., we weren’t getting the best of the best. We were getting the second and the third press of the champagne, not the first press. So of course, being the competitor that I am, I wanted to bring the first press of the grapes, zero sugar champagnes, and right now we have the fastest growing champagne in the United States. Our Cheurlin Champagnes are being featured everywhere, I'm happy to bring it here to Arizona and partner with the Suns and Fry’s Food Stores."
You’re obviously a basketball lifer. How exciting has it been to combine your two passions through Cheurlin’s partnerships with NBA teams & the NBPA?
"It’s been a natural progression and natural connection, because for so long we've always celebrated with champagne after, you know, winning championships or any celebratory moment, but we never really made the connection with a champagne that we can call our own. So what Cheurlin Champagne has done is come in and say, ‘Okay, this is our champagne, this is the player’s champagne.’ And it’s the player’s champagne because it's zero sugar and it's the first press of the grapes, so you get in the best of the best. We think that America and the players should have the best of the best, and no one else in the market right now can say that they're bringing the first press of the grape champagne into the United States. We're the only one that’s doing it"
You enjoyed an outstanding 13-year career in the NBA. What do you remember about battles against the Phoenix Suns during your playing days?
"Always exciting. Always up-and-down, going against Tom chambers and Kevin Johnson. You know, they were high-octane. We always had close games here, and it was just always great competition."
Suns guard Devin Booker earned his first NBA All-Star selection this season, and you had the chance to briefly connect with him in your hometown of Chicago a few weeks ago. What was your message to Devin during that conversation?
"I just congratulated him and told him that it was well-deserved. I know his dad well, so to see his son have this much success and the way he carries himself, he’s so professional as a player and as a person, it was great to see him rewarded for his hard work. I know he will continue to progress and knock the cover off the ball, because he's got great coaching around him. He's got a good front office around him. And more importantly, he's got my childhood hero and mentor, Eddie Johnson on the mic that always continues to give him good advice."
Book’s continued development has been a big part of the culture shift in Phoenix, which has been spearheaded by General Manager James Jones and Head Coach Monty Williams. What improvements by this Suns team have stood out to you this season?
"The biggest thing that I've seen with James Jones, Monty and Devin Booker, those three are clearly the faces of the franchise and they're all on the same page. The culture that you're building here and the culture that's been established, that is the identity. It’s a culture that will attract younger players and it’s a culture that will attract free agents. And of course, everybody loves to be here in Phoenix. You definitely are doing it right."
Cheurlin is available now at select Fry’s Food Stores locations throughout the Valley, including their new downtown location adjacent to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Now through the end of March, fans that purchase Cheurlin Champagne at Fry’s will be eligible to win a VIP Suite Night for the Suns’ matchup with the Utah Jazz on April 11.