It is very well known that many entertainers, including professional athletes, love premium cigars. Some entertainers and athletes take the step from just being an afficionado, to having their own brand. Recently we published a list of six entertainers (actors, chefs and musicians) who had or have their own brand but for that list, we excluded professional athletes. Today we publish the second part of a three-part list of professional athletes that created a cigar after their active career was finished. The first five names you can find here.
If you know any other athletes with their own cigars, let us know in the comments and maybe we get enough names to write another part.
Michael Keller Ditka (born Michael Dyczko; October 18, 1939) is an American former football player, coach, and television commentator. During his playing career, he was UPI NFL Rookie of Year in 1961, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and a six-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League (NFL); he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Ditka teamed up with Camacho in 2012. By the time of the release, Davidoff and Ditka released a press release saying “Camacho, the world’s boldest cigar and a core brand in the Oettinger Davidoff Group portfolio, is pleased to announce a new partnership with legendary hall of fame football player and coach, Mike Ditka. Under this new partnership, the “Coach” and Camacho will develop a series of new cigar lines carrying the Ditka name, which will be made at Tabacos Rancho Jamastran in Honduras”. Nowadays Rancho Jamastran is closed and Davidoff built a new factory in Honduras called Diadema Cigars de Honduras. Some of the Ditka cigars are made there, but there are also Dominican made Ditka cigars by Davidoff on the market now.
“If I am going to put my name on something, it’s gotta be the best. The product and the package are outstanding. I am really looking forward to this relationship,” Mike Ditka stated back in 2012.
Karl Anthony Malone (born July 24, 1963) is an American former professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nicknamed “the Mailman”, he is considered one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. Malone spent his first 18 seasons (1985–2003) in the NBA with the Utah Jazz and formed a formidable duo with his teammate John Stockton. He was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, a 14-time NBA All-Star, and an 11-time member of the All-NBA first team. His 36,928 career points scored rank third all-time in NBA history behind LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and he holds the records for most free throws made and attempted, and most regular season games started, in addition to being tied for the second-most first-team All-NBA selections with Kobe Bryant and behind LeBron James.
After his active career, Malone teamed up with La Aurora, the oldest cigar factory in the Dominican Republic for the Karl Malone cigars. Through a close family friend, Malone was introduced to the Hernandez family, led by cigar industry veteran Eudaldo Hernandez. Together they approached La Aurora Cigars with the desire to create a cigar blend that would match Malone’s dynamic, rugged attitude. This cigar would have to also reflect his personal taste in cigars: bold with accents of wood and creamy flavours. It took several blends before Malone found one that he approved of. Because of the unique barrel aged process, the tobaccos used in the cigars underwent, they settled on the name La Aurora Barrel Aged by Karl Malone.
Besides the Karl Malone cigars, La Aurora and Malone work together on the E. Leon Jimenes rum as well. The rum is owned by the same company that owns La Aurora and Malone acts as brand ambassador in the United States for the rum.
Jacques Dominique Wilkins (born January 12, 1960) is an American former professional basketball player who primarily played for the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Wilkins was a nine-time NBA All-Star, a seven-time All-NBA Team member and is widely viewed as one of the most acrobatic slam dunkers in NBA history, earning the nickname “the Human Highlight Reel”. In October 2021, he was honoured as one of the league’s greatest players of all-time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
In 2019, Wilkins and fellow NBA player Tiago Splitter teamed up with Tabacalera Pichardo and ACE Prime to create M.X.S. cigars. The name stands for “Maximum Excellence and Success.” After the changes at ACE Prime, where ACE Prime became Luciano Cigars, the Pichardo line from Luciano became Tiago cigars. We have no idea how involved Wilkins is at the moment.
Tiago Splitter Beims (born January 1, 1985) is a Brazilian former basketball player and current coach. A three-time All-Euro League Team selection prior to his NBA career, he became the first Brazilian-born player to win an NBA championship, in 2014, as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
Splitter and fellow NBA legend Dominique Wilkins teamed up with ACE Prime and Tabacalera Pichardo to create M.X.S. cigars. In 2023, Luciano rebranded the Pichardo lines as Tiago Cigars. Splitter is a co-owner of Luciano Cigars. Tiago Cigars are produced at the Luciano Cigars Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.
David Américo Ortiz Arias (born November 18, 1975), nicknamed “Big Papi”, is a Dominican-American former professional baseball designated hitter and first baseman who played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1997 to 2016, primarily for the Boston Red Sox.
After his long and successful career, Ortiz teamed up with the Dominican tobacco growers and cigar manufacturers at Artista Cigars. Ortiz used to hang out at the factory whenever he was in the Dominican Republic, smoking cigars with Ram Rodriguez of Artista Cigars and one thing led to another. Nowadays, there have been several releases under the Big Papi name and out of all the names mentioned, I feel that Ortiz is the most successful at the moment.