Diamante's Brooklyn Cigar Lounge is a showman's lair, a neighborhood club, and a resource for cigar lovers-all who enter are equal and welcome.
David Diamante:

Cigars, broadcasting, and sports: it's nice work, and Brooklyn entrepreneur David Diamante's got it.

By Murdoch McBride

Sports fans nationwide are becoming increasingly familiar with the voice of David Diamante, one of the most popular live announcers in sports broadcasting. A lifelong boxing enthusiast who trained in the sport, he frequently announces title fights and is a staple on ESPN, Showtime, and HBO. For the past two seasons, Diamante has been working in basketball as the "Voice of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets" (last season the New Jersey Nets), and he currently announces all Nets games at Brooklyn's new Barclays Center. Most recently, Diamante landed a spot at NBC, where he hosts the NBC Sports Network's daily morning show, "The 'Lights." Everyone knows a voiceover guy - but few have Diamante's sports knowledge, his versatility, or his innate ability to understand and engage live audiences.

Not only is the fifth generation Brooklynite a great announcer, but he's geniune - a renaissance man with multiple talents, interests, and pursuits. Audiences can sense that, and it's been a contributing reason for his success.

Not surprisingly, Diamante is also a cigar lover who owns Diamante's Brooklyn Cigar Lounge in Fort Greene. The lounge is located just a short walk from the Barclays Center near downtown Brooklyn and it has been a personal passion for the better part of four years. He travels widely, often to research and create blends for his own house cigar line. Diamante is also an avid motorcyclist and his earlier careers and ongoing interests include percussion and disc jockeying.

Diamante thrives on "crossover energy" - the tension derived from successfully cross-pollinating his efforts in one area of interest with his work in an entirely separate field. A hipster entrepreneur, he respects tradition while enjoying the contradictions inherent in the fringe lifestyle. Physically imposing, he's tall with an athletic build, yet quite approachable. A dedicated mane of three-foot-plus-long dreadlocks contrast his impeccable business attire and he is usually seen wearing bespoke suits made by his friend, designer Warren Liao of Black Lapel. He projects a friendly air of irreverence, but he prepares carefully and is capable of going toe-to-toe on any subjects in his professional realm, from boxing, to professional sports announcing, cigars, music, and disc jockeying.

Diamante announcing a title match for Showtime.
He moves easily between cultures, commuting daily to the NBC studio in Stamford, Connecticut and back to downtown Brooklyn where both friends and casual acquaintances greet him in and around Diamante's on South Oxford Street like his lounge is their personal, neighborhood touchstone to Barclays and the Nets, or maybe even the venue's popular investor, Jay-Z. Despite the steady flow of attention and recognition, both of which might poison or corrupt a lesser man, he remains the soul of patience and humility - ever successful and always one of Brooklyn's own.

Diamante's Brooklyn Cigar Lounge is where we met and spoke with David. It is a showman's lair, a neighborhood club and a resource for cigar lovers. All who enter are equal and welcome. The lounge is easily identified by a large glowing cigar that hangs above the entrance, while Diamante's high-performance motorcycles are often parked on the street. Inside, one finds a sports haven with an easygoing, smoker-friendly vibe - a cozy, dimly lit and casually crafted old-world lounge that draws folks from all walks of life, each looking for a comfortable place to smoke and relax. Many seem to share one or all of his three passions - sports, music and cigars.

Diamante frequently references his spirituality and the value he places on being centered and positive. And though he won't deconstruct his beliefs or his spiritual awakening for the record, it is important to understand that spirituality is integral to Diamante's character and how he views his relationships with others. "I want my life's work to leave a positive mark on the world," Diamante said. "If I can be an inspiration to young people leading troubled lives, or to someone stuck in a certain situation who has no hope or believes that because of where they're coming from that they can't do something - well, I want them to realize that they can."

Diamante relishes the personal and spiritual growth that comes from his extensive travels, including the considerable research and study of cigars he's undertaken, especially in cigar producing countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. On one particular cigar trip some years back, he found himself hitchhiking widely across Honduras and Nicaragua while working up the blends for his cigar line.

Diamante is the "Voice of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets," announcing all basketball games at the new $1 billion Barclays Center near downtown Brooklyn.
"I traveled extensively in Honduras, starting in San Pedro Sula, and then heading up north and scuba diving in the Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila," Diamante recalled while smoking one of his own robustos at his lounge. "Then, it was over to the ancient tobacco-rich city of Copan near the Guatemalan border where the Mayan Indians smoked copaneco. From there it was down into Danlí and the Jamastran Valley to explore that cigar region. Depending on the country, cigars are usually at the center of my planning for a trip. I am always looking for cigars and cigar culture, or working on my own line."

Diamante went to many cigar factories on that trip, including Padrón, Plasencia, Puros Indios, and Tabacalera Perdomo. "I had a lot of reasons to go, but the crux of the trip was Danlí and El Paraíso, Honduras, and Estelí and the Jalapa Valley in Nicaragua. It was important for me to go to the tobacco regions and I spent time making connections and learning about the tobacco processes."

Diamante said he appreciated the Central American topography, climate, and the soil, but it was the people that made the biggest impression on him.

"The passion these people have for cigars and the way the region is focused mainly on tobacco is just remarkable," Diamante said. "They produce coffee and maize, but the focus is mainly cigars. The commitment they've made to tobacco is wonderful. There are so many quality cigars coming out of both Honduras and Nicaragua. I enjoy going to the small unknown factories that don 't even have names and meeting with the guys who have been plying their trade for years."

Diamante is an adventurer and most often travels alone, such as the time in Honduras where he went to a local rodeo.

"It was like the wild west," Diamante said. "It was nighttime and there were vaqueros [cowboys] everywhere... rodeo games, livestock, and arts and crafts. The guys were guys openly carrying arms, drinking, and fighting, there were cockfights and you're really out there - you're in rural Honduras. The law there is still about the survival of the fittest. But, the people are very warm, they're just wonderful. I love the people."

One of the hardest parts of such trips is testing the tobacco, Diamante says sarcastically.

Diamante in Giza, Egypt, smoking a torpedo from his own cigar line. He relishes the personal and spiritual growth that comes from travel.

"You're smoking different blends, and that's a great thing," he said. "Though in all honesty, while it does sound great to be a cigar tester, when you're going through that many blends there's a lot of pressure to make sure that you're cleansing your palate properly and getting a true read on each stick. It's difficult because appreciating cigars takes time; it's not something you want to rush."

Diamante believes that it takes years to develop a good palate, much the same as it does with developing an ear for music or an eye for competitive sports like basketball or boxing. "There are no short cuts on how to do it," he said. "It takes a long time, but the more cigars you smoke, the more fights you watch and the more music you listen to, the better you understand what you like and the more you know what is good. One of the roles that I've taken on is that of a tastemaker. Whether it's in fashion, music, sports or cigars, I've been fortunate to be exposed to so much. I like to say that 'the harder you work, the luckier you get,' and I've worked hard to be in the positions that I've been in."

As a young announcer, Diamante worked in Northern Virginia at WGMU, where he was an on-air DJ, a role he reprised in New York working as a live DJ at the former Scores Club.

"Being a true DJ - meaning on the air or in a cutting edge club - should make you a tastemaker," Diamante explained. "A DJ is telling an audience what's hot before they know what's hot. You have to have an ear, sure, but you need to use your soul too. As a DJ, when you hear certain music you say, 'This cut is the truth, it speaks to me. This is good music, so I'm playing this.' No one in the audience may know what that track is, because it's often not on the radio yet. You have to know how to tell a story with your music, know how to create the mix and do it so that it's going to touch people. You have to be able to read a crowd and understand the energy."

Diamante believes that the ability to read and understand that energy is a universal skill that he uses in all of his pursuits, whether it be as an announcer or blending a cigar.

Want more? For the remainder of this article, including more pictures and an in-depth interview, subscribe now - or pick up a copy of SMOKE Magazine at a Tobacconist near you!

SMOKE 2012, Issue 4


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