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Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler has always been a bit of a throwback player, from his slashing and midrange scoring style to his relentlessness with teammates in practice. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Butler wants the NBA to revert to the physicality of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Butler recently sat down with Complex Sports to speak on his recent off-court dealings and his opinion on the ever-changing nature of the sport. His desire for more contact and battles in the trenches perfectly explains his role as the franchise’s leader and the ultimate proponent of Heat Culture.

Jimmy Butler wants more brawling in the modern NBA

Although Butler feels rivalries still exist in today’s NBA, he thinks that the nature of the modern game precludes those grudge matches from holding the same weight as those in past eras.

Butler told Complex Sports that the NBA doesn’t allow for as much physicality anymore. He wishes the league would soften up its stance in that regard.

“They’re not letting you get into no brawls no more. Nobody’s going to let you do that. I wish that they would let us do that a little bit, if I’m just being honest. I really do think the [the rivalries are] still there. The game has just changed. It’s not as much banging and knocking people to the ground anymore. You can’t do it like that—you get a flagrant 1, a flagrant 2, a tech, something. I wish it would go back to that time.”

–Jimmy Butler, via Complex Sports

Indeed, the NBA has made plenty of efforts to mitigate overly physical plays and enhance player safety.

Referees review all plays that might include contact to the head or neck area. They typically assess flagrant penalties for any such instances, and the term “play on the basketball” has become somewhat indecipherable.

The way referees call games looks nothing like it did in the past. Slashers coming into the lane faced the possibility of getting leveled or clotheslined at the basket in past decades. Karl Malone wasn’t even ejected for his infamous elbowing of Isiah Thomas in 1991, though he was later fined and suspended.

Butler seems to welcome the idea of a more physical NBA devoid of so many whistles and ticky-tack fouls. His statement underscores the qualities that make him the new face of Heat Culture.

Butler’s mentality defines Heat Culture

Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler barks out orders during an NBA game against the Washington Wizards in February 2022
Jimmy Butler reacts to a call during a game against the Washington Wizards on February 07, 2022 | G Fiume/Getty Images

The Heat have been one of the most competitive franchises in basketball for over a decade. They owe much of that success to strong coaching and leadership, plus various players embodying the esteemed Heat Culture.

For years, Udonis Haslem’s — the oldest active player in the NBA — longevity and veteran leadership made him the face of Heat Culture. Now, Jimmy Butler defines that philosophy.

Butler plays the game with a certain tenacity and leaves it all on the floor. No image symbolizes that notion more so than Jimmy Buckets doubled over in exhaustion in the final minute of a triple-double performance in Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals.

The 32-year-old isn’t the glitziest superstar. However, he consistently contributes to winning as one of the best two-way wings in the sport, and his ability to uplift younger players and build their confidence plays a significant role in Miami’s success. The Heat wear on opponents defensively and score in various fashions, with the likes of Kyle Lowry also adding to the team’s scrappy nature.

Butler has been grinding this season. He has played through injuries and fought his way back onto the floor, making a legitimate impact for the top team in the Eastern Conference. In fact, Butler’s outstanding season has somehow flown under the radar.

Give Jimmy Buckets his flowers

Jimmy Butler earned his sixth All-Star selection this season, but he still hasn’t gotten the same acclaim as some other superstars throughout the NBA. That needs to change.

Through 38 games, Butler is averaging 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. He’s shooting over 49% from the field and ranks among the leaders in free-throw attempts per game. Butler also dominates on the defensive end, averaging 1.8 steals.

The advanced numbers also speak to the quality of Butler’s season. He ranks fourth in the NBA in box plus-minus and fifth in win shares per 48 minutes. Butler is also in the top 10 in player efficiency rating (sixth) and value over replacement player (ninth). Miami didn’t do much at the trade deadline. But with Jimmy Buckets leading the way, the Heat are still a top contender in the East.

Now, if only the NBA allowed Butler to get down and dirty.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.


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