Kabir Bharatiya

Staff Writer

When we think of NBA players, we think of the fame, money, and media recognition they get. These guys get paid millions of dollars to play a game that they love, and just getting to the NBA itself is extremely difficult. Alot of these men grew up as basketball prodigies, starting basketball at young age. They lived comfortable lifestyles with their families knowing they would be NBA-bound in the future. But for other NBA  players it wasn’t so easy. They had to confront adversity and overcome obstacles to make their name heard. NBA start Jimmy Butler knows this better than anybody.


Jimmy Butler was born on September 14th, 1989 in Houston, Texas. Butler’s father abandoned his family when Jimmy was only a baby, so it was only Jimmy and his mom living in their small house in the suburban area of Houston. Butler was only around 13 years old when he was kicked out of the house. In a 2011 interview Butler remembered his mother telling him, “I don’t like the look of you. You gotta go.” Left to the streets, Butler bounced around his friends’ houses and was homeless for a large part of his middle and high school years. It wasn’t until the summer of his senior year when things started to change. 

Jimmy met Jordan Leslie, a freshman football and basketball player at their high school. Leslie had challenged Butler to a three-point shooting contest, and the two became close friends immediately. While Leslie’s parents were hesitant at first, Butler eventually began staying at Jordan’s home, despite the fact the family had six children of their own. “They just accepted me into their family,” Butler said years later. “And it wasn’t because of basketball.” With practice and time with Leslie, Butler averaged nearly 20 points per game and 9 rebounds in his senior year of high school. Still, it wasn’t enough to get on college radars.

College Career:

Despite a very solid showing in his senior year, and being voted his school’s team MVP, Butler was not receiving recruiting opportunities out of high school. He later chose to attend Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, where he finally got some recognition and offers from Division 1 colleges after a stellar freshman year at Tyler. Overjoyed, Butler accepted an offer at Marquette University in Wisconsin, where the chance of playing for the NBA was becoming a reality for him. Butler proved he belonged there, showing off his steady offensive game and solid defensive abilities. By his senior year at Marquette he averaged almost 16 points per game, and set out for the NBA draft.

Jimmy Butlers plays for Marquette University before he sets out for the NBA draft. (Source: The Stepian)

Professional Career:

Butler was drafted with the last pick of the first round (30th overall) by the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA draft. Twenty-nine other teams didn’t want the 22-year old, but the Bulls took a chance on him. In his rookie year, Butler saw minimal playing time, and only really started to get on the court in the 2012-2013 NBA season. He helped get the Bulls to the playoffs, and even helped them win their first round series against the Toronto Raptors. Butler continued to grow and improved his play significantly over the next few seasons. In fact, he became one of the league’s best defenders and playoff performers. 

By 2014-2015, he was rewarded for his play, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Almost immediately after, the Bulls rewarded Butler with a 5-year $95 million dollar contract extension. Over the course of the next 2 seasons, Butler succeeded in bringing the Bulls to the playoffs. He even went on to make the 2016 U.S Olympic Men’s Basketball team. 

Unfortunately, the relationship between the Bulls front office and Butler was not in good shape. In June 2017,  Butler was traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markannen. Despite the change of scenery, Butler continued to perform well with his new team. Butler, along with  the Timberwolves’s center Karl-Anthony Towns, formed great chemistry on the court and took Minnesota to the playoffs that season. While he found success on the team, Butler often clashed with his teammates in the locker , unhappy after a mere season with Minnesota. In November 2018, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

With all the issues with his former teammates, Butler had gained the reputation of being a great player, but one “that is selfish and doesn’t care about the team.” But once in Philadelphia, Butler, along with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, was up and running and took the Sixers to the playoffs. It had seemed like Butler had finally found a home with 76ers and was headed in the right direction. But after a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, Butler was traded yet again, this time to the Miami Heat.

Going into the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Heat was not expected to be anything special. By now, everyone had written Butler off as a toxic teammate. But the Heat showed they were not to be taken lightly as they finished 5th in the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Butler was back in his all-star form. 

In the playoffs, the Heat caught fire, especially Jimmy Butler. The team swept the 4th seeded Pacers in the first round, and then upset the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games. Butler had a 30 and 40 point performance in their series against Milwaukee. With help and advice from Butler, new Heat players Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson blossomed during their time in the playoffs as well. Despite the emergence of center Bam Adebayo and the plays from veterans Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder, it was Butler’s leadership and mentorship of the rookies and young guys which made the Heat so special and successful.


Now, with his prolific career on a rise, Jimmy Butler has proved all those who doubted him wrong. Since his rise to success, Butler has also fallen into contact with his parents. “I don’t hold grudges. I still talk to my family. My mom. My father,” Butler said. “We love each other. That’s never going to change.” 

In an interview with ESPN, Butler was asked to talk about his life story. “Please, I know you’re going to write something. I’m just asking you, don’t write it in a way that makes people feel sorry for me… I hate that. There’s nothing to feel sorry about. I love what happened to me. It made me who I am. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve faced.” Jimmy Butler turned his challenges into his motivation. After everything he has been through, Jimmy Butler, as a role model, an NBA player, and as a person, is an inspiration to us all.

Picture Source: ClutchPoints.com

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