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Jimmy Butler is building a coffee empire in the NBA bubble

Jimmy Butler smiling on the basketball court
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)
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Athletic training thrives on routine, and the unpredictability of COVID-19 has upended many longstanding plans and rituals. So, when Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat NBA team discovered that his hotel’s coffee shops had been closed by the pandemic, rather than forego his daily caffeine he began making coffee himself, and selling cups to fellow teammates for a cool $20 a pop.

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Now, as reported by ESPN staff writer Malika Andrews, Butler’s en-suite coffee business “Big Face Coffee” hasn’t just proven to be popular, it’s resulted in some competition from the team’s assistant athletic trainer, Brandon Gilliam. As written by Andrews, Gilliam felt that Butler’s prices were too high, and that the opportunity to mess with one of his players was simply too good to pass up. Using the name “Little Face Coffee,” Gilliam began selling cups of joe to members of the Heat organization out of his own room for a comparatively meager $5 a cup, with the first cup free.

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As you might expect, the rivalry has grown by leaps and bounds. While Butler has apparently been drinking coffee out of cups emblazoned with his own custom logo since his days with the Chicago Bulls, he has now expanded his branding to include a hoodie with the phrase “BIG FACE COFFEE OWNER,” and his representatives have “submitted paperwork for trademarks related to the name and logos for Big Face Coffee.” And Gilliam has fired back, with expanded hours and pricing favored by coaches and staff.

This story is particularly great because Malika Andrews’ reporting is deep and has uncovered quite a breadth of information. For example, in reporting on how both Butler and Gilliam have found ways to further entice customers, she uncovered this particular nugget:

“A review from “Jimmy B” says: “These guys are good! They know coffee.” Another by “Erik S.” reads: “I support small business. I’ve always rooted for the underdog. Little Face Coffee is much better than the big chains. It’s family!”

There’s just one problem.

“I walked by it one day and thought, ‘I didn’t say that,’” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.”

Even if you’re not a sports fan, this funny, engaging story merits a full read.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

So how long till we see a photo of Florida Police shutting down his stand. I mean that’s gonna happen right?