Coco Gauff is the 6th female tennis player in the world. She is also an avid Miami Heat fan.
If all goes well for her, she will be celebrating a Heat championship and her own in the weeks to come. The 19-year-old American is playing at Roland-Garros in search of her first Grand Slam championship. Every time she’s finished at Roland Garros, she says she has an open invitation to the NBA Finals, thanks to the confidence of ever-confident Heat star Jimmy Butler.
Gauff, a South Florida resident, told reporters Tuesday that Butler sent her a message in April offering her tickets to the Heat’s regular season finale against the Orlando Magic on April 9 and another offering tickets for the playoffs. When she told Butler that she would be traveling for tennis for most of the NBA playoffs, Butler promised her NBA Finals tickets.
“I said, ‘I won’t be here,'” Gauff said of her response to Butler, per AP. “I will be in Madrid, then in Rome, then in France.” And then he said, ‘OK, when we do the final, let me know if your family wants tickets.’ So that was before we were even in the playoffs.
Notice superfan Gauff’s “we” — and Butler’s “when.” According to Gauff’s timeline, Butler made that promise of Finals tickets “when” the Heat advance to April — before Miami was even assured of a playoff spot.
“I was like, ‘Oh, here we go. We’re going to the final,'” Gauff continued. “So that’s my ‘Jimmy Butler story.’ He pretty much said we were going to the finals before we even qualified for the playoffs, and I really like that mentality.
Heat almost missed the playoffs – then made it to the Finals
The Heat finished with the seventh-best record in the East this season at 44-38. That only secured them a spot in the NBA play-in, which pits teams ranked 7-10 in each conference against each other for their respective conference’s final two playoff spots. The Heat lost their first play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks. They only reached the playoffs with a win or win over the Chicago Bulls to secure the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.
Since then, they have beaten No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks, No. 5 seed New York Knicks and No. 2 seed Boston Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets. There they will be just the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to play in the championship round, joining the 1999 Knicks.
Will Gauff be able to accept Butler’s ticket offer?
So will Gauff be able to attend? She is in the early stages of what she hopes will be her own tournament run. Gauff beat Spaniard Rebeka Masarova (3-6, 6-1, 6-2) in the first round of Roland-Garros on Tuesday. She will next face Austria’s Julia Grabher in the second round on Thursday, the same day as Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Denver.
If Gauff makes it to the French Open final, she will play for the championship on June 10. Games 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals are scheduled for June 7 and 9 in Miami. So while she would love to see her Heat, she sure hopes she’s not available for those games.
But in an ideal world for Gauff, she could play the French Open final and return home to Florida early enough for a possible Game 6. If the final goes that far, the Heat would host the Nuggets on June 15. Butler, who showed up to support Gauff at the Miami Open in March, would certainly appreciate the opportunity for Gauff to return the favor.