David Diamante on Motorcycles, Cigars and the Brooklyn Nets

Blair Pfander

diamante David Diamante on Motorcycles, Cigars and the Brooklyn NetsDavid Diamante is a man of many passions. So many, in fact, that’s it’s a little difficult to keep track: between surfing and boxing to motorcycles and cigars—he stocks his cozy Fort Greene joint, Diamante’s Brooklyn Cigar Lounge, with his own collection of fine, hand-rolled cigars—Diamante had plenty on his plate before signing on to become the voice of the Brooklyn Nets last year.
Sure, his schedule is jam-packed (he recently added a morning sports show on NBC Sports Network, The ‘Lights to his busy routine), but “The Man With the Golden Voice”—who also happens to sport a full head of dread locks—wouldn’t give any of it up for a minute.
The Vivant: I’ve read that you’ve been a surfer, a DJ, a motorcyclist—I wanted to ask, what was your first job ever?
David Diamante: Wow, that’s a good question, I’m not exactly sure. Probably a snow shoveler. But really I was a pizza guy. I used to slap the dough—you know, throw it up in the air—and I can still do it very well. I’ve always been a great pizza chef.
I’ve heard you’re an avid motorcyclist.
When I ride bikes, especially in Brooklyn, there are little kids everywhere, and little kids, seriously, are fascinated by motorcycles. And I myself, as a little kid, was fascinated with motorcycles. So when I grew up, it was [all about] BMX bikes and we’d build ramps and do crazy stuff, and then we picked up skateboards and started doing death-defying stuff on the skateboards, so I was always about balancing and speed.
What was your first bike?
That I actually owned?
I had a KZ440.
And what are you riding now?
I have a Ducati and Suzuki. I’ve had Harleys, Hondas—I’ve had many bikes over the years. I used to have a ’77 Ironhead Harley Davidson. All kinds of different bikes.
What about the cigars? Do you remember the first time you picked up a cigar?
I’ve always enjoyed smoking cigars, from somewhat of an early age, although I was not [always] an aficionado. I didn’t know all the ins and outs of cigars, I just knew I enjoyed them. As time went on, your palette grows. I started learning about them. I was doing a lot of travelling, and travelled down to Cuba, down to Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, and all those countries are known for their cigars and their tobacco. I did some studying. I was really fascinated with cigars. You hear all this stuff nowadays about organic food and organic this and that—and cigars are really an organic product. And not only that, they’re beautiful. They’re completely hand-rolled, basically from seed to box.
What makes a great cigar lounge?
To be honest with you, I really like all cigar lounges, because I like to smoke cigars…In my lounge, you’ll see old pictures of my family..I have pictures of my great grandfather, and my great great grandfather, smoking cigars. And the reason I tell you this is because, to me…smoking cigars can be a spiritual activity. They say the spirit likes smoke. To have pictures of my ancestors in the same area that I’m in smoking cigars just brings great mojo, and feels right. I wanted my lounge to have somewhat of an old school, relaxed feel. I really wanted a brownstone. I wanted old wood, and leather. It’s old wood, reclaimed wood, leather, with old black and white photos of boxers on the wall. And I’m very involved with boxing. I’m a boxing announcer. In fact, I’ll be announcing tonight for Renzo Gracie at his academy in Brooklyn. September 29th, I’ll be announcing for HBO at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods.
For a cigar novice, what do you recommend trying first?
I would say definitely something mild…Some people are heavy cigarette smokers looking to try cigars, and they might enjoy something stronger because they’re used to tobacco. If you’re not used to tobacco at all, try something mild. And I have a cigar called the Hemingway that’s just wonderful to smoke, and that’s what I’d recommend starting with.
Shifting gears to the Nets—what first drew you to the auditions?
Obviously I was a sports announcer before that, I’ve done boxing for many years. And I’m a huge fan of Brooklyn. My family is from here. I’ve been coming here for, I don’t want to age myself, but for many years. People know me for boxing, but now they know me for all kinds of sports, which is great, because that’s really me. I love baseball, I love football, I love basketball. I like competition. I played basketball when I was younger, and loved the sport. I know the sport, I understand the sport. And when I first heard that the Nets were moving to Brooklyn, immediately I was like, ‘I’m going to be a huge fan.’ This is before I knew I would be the announcer. And I thought to myself, I would love to be the voice of the team. It just seemed like a perfect fit. So when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it.
I understand—and this is coming from a non sports follower, granted—but I understand you’re younger than the typical sports announcer?
And better looking! [Laughs]
What else distinguishes you in the field?
I think several things. The obvious answer would be my looks, because I have long dread locks. Maybe that’s the obvious answer, but I’d rather not go with the obvious answer, and tell you it’s something else about my announcing. My voice, for one. People like my baritone voice which is a nice thing, I appreciate that. But I think something that defines me, makes me a little bit different, is my understanding and knowledge of crowds, and live events. Over the years I was a professional drummer, I’ve played in live bands, and I was a DJ in clubs, I did that for many years. So I’m used to this whole interaction with the crowd. I understand excitement, and I understand losing a crowd when you do something that’s incorrect, and I understand how to grab the crowd…One of my first DJ gigs many years ago was at a radio station, and I have to be honest with you, I hated it. I need a live interaction with people. We had people calling in, sure, but at the end of the day you’re sitting in a booth. I didn’t like that. I want the live aspect. When I’m announcing a fight in front of thousands of people—millions on TV—there’s a real rush.
What was the first time someone commented on your voice and when did you realize this was something you could do professionally?
Well, to answer the first part of your question, it was my grandmother, who passed away two weeks ago. My grandmother always told me, ‘You have a wonderful voice, you need to use your voice.’ And I’ve heard it many times throughout my life. But yeah, that’s when I first heard that.
What’s the most difficult thing about sports announcing?
You have to be prepared, you have to know your subject, you can’t go in there not knowing what you’re talking about. Sports fans are diehard, and they want to know what’s going on. When I’m announcing a boxing match on HBO or doing my TV show on NBC Sports Network, or any other gig, preparation is key. But I feel very comfortable behind a mike—it’s what I do…The other day I was driving to NBC Studios to record my show, and there’s a billboard for the lottery. It’s over 100 million dollars. I found myself smoking a cigar and pondering, ‘What would I do if I had that kind of money?’ And I thought to myself, well, every job I have—and I’m not lying to you—I would still do all of them. One-hundred percent I would still do the Nets. One-hundred percent I would continue with boxing. One-hundred percent I would continue with my show on NBC. And I love my cigar lounge. It’s like my club house, I love it. I wouldn’t give up any of them even if I had all the money in the world. And that’s a good feeling.
Diamante’s Brooklyn Cigar Lounge, 108 South Oxford Street, brooklyncigarlounge.com