The team’s sports performance specialists are grinding beans and brewing French press coffee before tipoff.

By Mike Pomranz
January 23, 2019
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Forget the Cleveland Cavaliers wine obsession: Basketball superstar and known oenophile LeBron James has taken his wine selecting talents to Los Angeles anyway. This year, the big beverage story in basketball might be the Portland Trail Blazers and their love of properly prepared coffee. Plus, unlike wine, coffee works great for pregame consumption, too.

Earlier this month, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes looked at the increasing interest in quality coffee as a game day ritual in the NBA. Though he suggested an appreciation of better beans and using a French press was growing across multiple teams, he specifically honed in on the Trail Blazers, not just because good coffee has become so prevalent in Portland’s locker room, but because the team needs the caffeine jolt: The Trail Blazers travel more miles over the course of a season than any other team in American professional sports.

Far more involved than firing up a Mr. Coffee, Blazers' sports performance specialist Todd Forcier, along with the help of the team’s other specialist Ben Kenyon, follows a meticulous coffee preparation routine. They reportedly travel with a padded suitcase packed with an electric grinder, electric kettle, and two stainless-steel 16-ounce French presses. The beans, which they grind fresh, are from the Portland-based independent roaster Water Avenue. And speaking of water, at the behooving of former center Chris Kaman who was around in 2014 when the Blazers’ whole coffee obsession began, it’s heated to precisely 190 degrees — below boiling, as any coffee expert would recommend for a French press. At this point, the Blazers apparently won’t accept anything less for their pregame pick-me-up served 35 minutes before tipoff. “We're like baristas on game day,” Forcier told ESPN. “They've become coffee snobs.”

But great tasting coffee is just a side-effect of the team’s real goal: better performance. Caffeine helps keep the players on their toes, and coffee is one of the purest ways to get America’s favorite stimulant. “The stigma was, someone might drink coffee, they're going to get dehydrated and collapse on the ground and go into muscle cramping because of coffee,” Forcier explained. Plenty of experts were ready to debunk that myth, and it certainly hasn’t been a problem for the Blazers, who are currently in fourth place in the highly competitive Western Conference — significantly higher than the tenth place ESPN predicted the team to finish during the preseason.

Can you credit all that success to the coffee? Probably not. But should Water Avenue brag anyway? Why not.

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