Long before it was the juice that fueled your disappointing Zoom meetings, coffee was a delight of the Arabian Peninsula. It might delight people to know that the word “coffee” is itself derived from a word originally given to a type of wine, at least in many common interpretations; what somebody saw in both was appetite suppression. Fair enough.
It might be curious, then, to learn that the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler started selling homespun coffee in the NBA bubble under the moniker Big Face Coffee. For $20 a pop, any resident of the bubble could have a taste, courtesy of a five-time NBA All-Star. Butler is one of the most notoriously hard workers in the league, and, as such, his appetite has never come into question. On Sunday night, and with a stupendous amount of help from Bam Adebayo – who, it’s worth noting, hates Butler’s pricing strategy – and company, he pushed the Miami Heat into the NBA Finals, ready to stand up to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was never easy. Jimmy Butler was kicked out of his house at 13. National rankings, which are never to be trusted in any case, held him in relatively low regard for a high school prospect. He stopped by a JUCO before ending up at Marquette, the alma mater of another notable Heat veteran, and earning his keep by beating up on the Big East.
Just barely, the Chicago Bulls took Butler in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. His draft profile draws comparisons to Wes Matthews and the idea that he is a jack of all trades and master of none. Derrick Rose was fresh off being the youngest MVP recipient in history; Joakim Noah was three years from receiving MVP consideration. Tom Petty knew.
Even so, the Portland Trail Blazers saw fit to draft Nolan Smith over him. Butler fought his way to a starting role, and then to a prominent one following Rose’s gradual breakdown. He did what he could under Tom Thibodeau. After a Three Alphas-turned-Three Stooges phase, he wore out his welcome in Chicago and tried to do what he could under Thibodeau again in Minnesota. What he did there, however, was (perhaps correctly, in hindsight?) disrespect the entire franchise and the very foundation upon which it built itself, to the delight of most everyone involved not named Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins.
A fruitful, if ill-fated, stop in Philadelphia later, and Butler is the primo Heat player. Long has he fit the platonic ideal of the Miami Heat, and in many ways, this was inevitable. Jimmy Butler loves nothing more than to work, and to prove that he is working more and harder than anyone else, both quantitatively and qualitatively. He likes to show you he cares while he also does not care; he likes to let you know that he and Mark Wahlberg are friends and share similarly insane workout routines. Jimmy Butler: a man of the people.
Somehow, Butler always manages to work himself into a frenzy at the right times. He’s one of the worst jump shooters in the NBA, not quite 25% from deep in the regular season prior to the stoppage, but then, he’s been almost 38% from three-point range in the bubble. His gravity attracts multiple defenders in crunch time, and he’s a more than capable distributor. Players like Tyler Herro, Goran Dragić and Adebayo end up benefitting.
Alive and awake as ever, Bam Adebayo had perhaps the best game of his career in closing out the Celtics – a 32-point, 14-rebound, five-assist effort that powered the Heat through Boston like adding oil to a preheated pan. Adebayo is one of the few players in the NBA who can truly and capably switch across all five nominal positions without hesitation; that he has added and is continuing to add to his offensive arsenal should be bonus for Pat Riley, Eric Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat brass.
Let’s not dance around Bam, who was awesome on Sunday and has long been awesome for the Heat: his development was a long time coming, but I’m not totally sure his third season in the NBA would’ve looked like this without Butler to prod him along. He nearly doubled his scoring average from last season and has otherwise seen a generous uptick in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks; while that is bound to have at least partially come from getting ten more minutes per game than last season, Adebayo himself has openly commended Butler’s work ethic and willingness to invite and implore his teammates to get up, get to it and get involved.
Jimmy Butler in the NBA Finals is a fascinating proposition. I don’t know – none of us do, and maybe even he doesn’t – what the threshold for his breaking point is, but I am enthralled to see that manifest itself one way or another. Even more than Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler might be the most singular player in the NBA in the way that he goes about his business, but then, his business becomes his team’s business, becomes everybody’s business soon thereafter.
I know this edition of the Miami Heat will be coffee-fueled, courtesy of Jimmy Butler. I also know that he isn’t going to impress that particular proclivity on anyone. I also-also know that he has impressed the rest of his proclivities on the rest of the roster, to their benefit. Dragić sticking around has been beneficial in its own right; watching Dragić finally succeed in an environment that wants the most of him has been a little bit like watching him in Phoenix the second time, but with less Eric Bledsoe.
The Mayor of Amsterdam gifted King Louis XIV with coffee plants, and they ended up in the hands of a naval officer in the latter’s stead. In Martinique, the seed thrived, and a Portuguese lieutenant named Francisco de Mello Palheta took home coffee seedlings, courtesy of a French officer’s wife. Naturally, that event begat a billion-dollar industry, with each of Gilmore Girls and Howard Schultz in its debt. People knew they were tired, even then, and they were willing to pay for it.
If the Miami Heat are going to beat the LeBron-led Lakers in these Finals, four years after LeBron left them, Butler will have much to do with it. But Bam Adebayo heads into this, the most important series of his life, as the most important player for the Miami Heat. He definitely isn’t who we thought he was; he’s better.
But so is Jimmy Butler. They are going to have to rely on each other to make this work. He has a $20-per-coffee business that has held up, and a basketball team leaning in on his every action, even if they don’t all collectively make sense. It’s held steady so far; why stop now?
 No tears here: they lost enough games that season to be able to draft Damian Lillard, which is the dividend that always pays on time for that team.
 Butler was the one who hit the shot before the shot, tying the Game 7 at 90 before Kawhi bounced a few times and then-
 I have some questions about his association with Michelob Ultra when all the while he’s portrayed himself as a wine connoisseur, but I acknowledge that Michelob Ultra sees and has positioned itself as the adult beverage of athletes.
 No, no – the other Rory.