Jimmy Butler is one of the most complicated figures in the NBA. Few players face a more divided public opinion to the extent he does.
The athlete grew up with his mother in the small town of Tomball, Texas (his dad was not in the picture) until he was kicked out of the house at 13 years old. Butler was homeless for the rest of his adolescence, couch hopping between his friends’ homes until he went to Tyler Junior College.
A lot of his basketball journey has been polarizing. But one current teammate has positive things to say about Butler.
Jimmy Butler’s unexpected rise to stardom
Butler was fueled by dreams of being a pro basketball player. Never a highly valued prospect, he had to go to junior college or give up on his dreams. Clearly, Butler does not give up easily. He parlayed his performances at Tyler into a scholarship to Marquette University, where he played for three years.
The Chicago Bulls drafted Butler with the last pick of the first round. After a few quiet seasons to begin his career, he became a two-way All-Star who kept the team afloat amidst Derrick Rose’s injury struggles. But the good feelings began to fade near the end of Butler’s tenure due to his contentious relationship with the front office and teammates.
In the summer of 2017, Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and a draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen. This move reunited him with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. It also placed him alongside two potential stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Excitement and expectations were high entering the 2017-18 season. Things did not go as planned.
The team generally underwhelmed throughout the season. They secured an overtime victory against the Denver Nuggets in the final game of the season to secure a spot in the playoffs. Then, they duly lost in five games to the Houston Rockets.
Butler’s practice that broke the internet
The reason many view Butler as an NBA villain stems from the way he orchestrated his exit from the Timberwolves. Legend has it that after making it clear that he was unhappy with the team, Butler led a practice squad of third-string bench players to a win over the rest of the starters.
He punctuated his accomplishment by yelling at then-GM Scott Layden “You f—ing need me, Scott. You can’t win without me.” Then, he discussed the incident in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
The Philadelphia 76ers got Butler in a trade early into the season. But the fallout from the experience created a lot of animosity that persists to this day. Butler was arguably the Sixers’ best player in the playoffs — amid more rumors of locker room tension — but the situation still wasn’t to his liking.
He surprised many by leaving for the Miami Heat, leaving more ill feelings in his wake. Some even argued that the Sixers would be better off without him and that Butler had forfeited his chance at winning the championship.
Butler’s Miami surprises the NBA
With Butler serving as the team leader, Miami has been one of the surprises of the season. Much of the Heat’s success comes from its ability to get strong contributions from the whole roster, including Tyler Herro.
The rookie’s mix of long-range shooting and athleticism has led to some high-minded comparisons. But, interestingly, the former Kentucky player has developed a friendly relationship with the allegedly harsh Butler. GQ asked Herro about his impressions of Butler as a teammate.
“The fact that people say he’s a bad teammate, or that he can’t win. I don’t know where that’s coming from. Jimmy is one of the best leaders and teammates that I’ve ever had. Obviously it’s my first year in the NBA, but the way that he goes about things and is able to lead a group of guys is incredible.”
Jimmy Butler may not be for everybody, but he seems to have found the perfect franchise for his personality. The Miami Heat are tough and play with a real team ethos. Things could still get better for the team. And any success they have over the next few years will likely be thanks to Butler, not in spite of him.
Follow more updates from Sportscasting on our Facebook page.