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Cigar Culture

Famous Athletes Who Smoke Cigars

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Holt's Staff

Athletic legends are no strangers to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The sheer determination, emotion, and adrenaline required to scale the ladder of a professional sport culminate in unimaginable triumph or in pure frustration when an opponent delivers an upset. Both are occasions closely associated with the relaxation, reflection, and focus a premium cigar provides, so it’s no surprise many of the most celebrated figures in sports appreciate a fine cigar. A number of them are more than simple enthusiasts – they’re fanatics.

For those who may be surprised by professional athletes who smoke, indulging in a premium handmade cigar is akin to sipping a glass of Bordeaux. Athletes who smoke cigars enjoy them like most cigar lovers – on occasion and for celebratory purposes. Following, we’ve laid out a handful of the all-stars whose passion for premium cigars is on par with their desire to win.                              

Michael Jordan

Why debate who’s the greatest? But if you were to, you might as well do so over a cigar. Michael Jordan was introduced to cigars through Jerry Reinsdorf. Jordan smoked his first cigar in 1991 after winning his first of six NBA championships and from there his fascination grew into a ritual – he routinely smoked a cigar in the back of the limousine to ease his tension over the heavy Chicago traffic en route to Bulls games. Today, Jordan’s passion has blossomed into an obsession. He smokes six cigars a day and is often seen with one in hand on the golf course. And he’s unapologetic about his love for premium cigars, indulging in numerous brands from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.  

LeBron James

Four-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA championship winner LeBron James bolsters the link between professional basketball and premium cigars. As the next generation of elite NBA pros, James is poised to enjoy plenty of victory cigars as his legacy unfolds on the court. He’s found no shortage of like-minded company with other all-stars like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Red Auerbach

Legendary Boston Celtics basketball coach Red Auerbach was a champion and a world-class character. His curmudgeonly image belied his coaching brilliance as he amassed over 900 career wins and nine NBA championships in a single decade. After coaching, Auerbach continued his winning ways as a team executive, adding seven more championship trophies to his collection.

Yet, for all of his wins and accolades, Auerbach is best remembered for his signature “victory cigar,” which was as much a symbol of his fondness for cigars as it was for unsettling the opposition and league officials. In response to his loud n’ proud preference for cigars, Auerbach taunted fellow coaches with his famous observation that “The cigar is a sign of relaxation. The cigarette is a sign of tension.” Well said, Red. Well said.

Babe Ruth

George Herman Ruth Jr. is regarded as one of professional sports’ first luminaries, dominating baseball and becoming a larger-than-life personality during the early part of the 20th century. The Babe was known for his mighty homerun swing, and his appetite for the finest things his massive salary could buy. One of his favorite luxuries? Premium cigars, of course. With 714 homeruns to his credit, Ruth had plenty of reason to celebrate and indulge his ravenous craving for premium smokes.

Wayne Gretzky

Professional hockey has had many great players over the years, but there’s only been a single “Great One,” and his name is Gretzky. Over a 20-year career, Gretzky compiled enough record-setting stats to guarantee eternal status as an athletic deity and serve as a model for future players. Always modest and unassuming, Gretzky got into cigars during his championship days, often preferring milder smokes with a more slender ring gauge, including Ashton, Dunhill with the blue and white band, and Macanudo. Like a number of retired greats, Gretzky can be found relaxing on the golf course, leisurely enjoying a cigar over 18 holes.

Conor McGregor

Though a relative youngster compared to others on this list, McGregor has gained a reputation for his dominant MMA feats and a number of more notorious out-of-the-ring antics for the purpose of self-promotion. Although he lost his crossover bout to professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017, McGregor wasn’t too worried by the result. He reportedly pocketed over $30 million dollars in the losing effort and threw himself a massive party afterwards, where he thoroughly enjoyed the spotlight, flooding it with expensive champagne, fine cigars, and of course himself.

Terry Bradshaw

It may be tough to make room for a humidor on the mantelpiece with four Super Bowl trophies taking up space, but it’s a problem Terry Bradshaw and few others will ever have to solve. Not bad for a country boy who played his college ball at Louisiana Tech. Bradshaw’s gridiron success was followed by a lengthy (and still current) career as an announcer, analyst, actor, and genuine good ol’ boy. One thing Bradshaw has enjoyed as much as football is cigars, and he is often seen luxuriating in a cloud of smoke with a favorite cigar. The guy who led the vaunted 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers to four NFL titles is entitled to a good cigar whenever he wants.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

An entire generation knows Arnold only for his iconic acting in roles in box office hits like The Terminator and Predator, and his later real-life role as Governor of California. However, before he got into Hollywood or politics, Schwarzenegger was a championship bodybuilder, hailed as the greatest in the sport’s history. Known for his magnificent physique throughout an impressive bodybuilding career, it was a natural transition for Schwarzenegger to transform himself into an action hero movie star. He was actually introduced to cigars by his father-in-law back during his bodybuilding days. Schwarzenegger’s running status as a cigar lover is as strong as his bench-pressing stats. He even installed an outdoor cigar-friendly tent during his governorship to circumvent the California Capitol’s smoking ban.

Mike Ditka

While his iconic hotheadedness frequently accompanied a waft of cigar smoke, the legendary NFL football player relied on his intense temperament to win during his tenure as head coach of the dominant ’85 Chicago Bears and later the New Orleans Saints. Mike Ditka (a.k.a. Iron Mike) is an avid cigar lover in public and private. Numerous cigar companies have partnered with Ditka over the years to release cigars that honor “Da Coach,” including Graycliff and Davidoff’s boutique brand Camacho. Camacho produced an entire series around him, incuding Ditka 89, Ditka Throwback, Ditka Game Time, and Ditka Signature. It’s tough to beat that kind of respect.

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