To tell you the truth, I am not the biggest fan of the NBA and some would even call me a bandwagon fan who is only there at the hype of the NBA Finals. I don’t have a group I’d really call that I root for and every season, it changes. And this year is no different. I’m rooting for the Miami Heat because I think the Lakers are getting the jump start this year because if this was a movie they’re like an all-star cast. And I always root for the underdog.
Game 1, Lakers won. Game 2, Lakers won — again.
After Game 3 to which the Miami Heat finally won after losing 2 games in a row, one particular name really stuck with me: Jimmy Butler.
This man delivered in what most call the David and Goliath Battle scoring 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists — and all of this without his two best teammates. Fans and enthusiasts have commented that this was the gutsiest Finals performance in NBA history. They bested the Lakers at 115-104. At that moment, that man got my utmost respect.
But what inspired me about him was not that win because I’ve never been a fan of winning. The end is not something that mattered to me rather it is the journey that always makes an impact. And it has always been what most people did not pay attention to because the cheers of glory are always louder than the struggles.
Jimmy Butler is not exactly the Jimmy Butler on the limelight today. What we’re seeing is a culmination of a man who has worked years to where he is now. Coming from college, no one really expected anything from him. He was the last pick from his draft (30th) in the first round by the Chicago Bulls. Year after year after year, Jimmy did not waste a sweat and worked harder than anybody. As a rookie, he averaged 2.6 ppg (points per game) and by sophomore season, he had significant improvements kicking in at 8.6 ppg. By his third season, he upped his average to 13ppg until his 4th year when he finally broke out as an all-star with 20ppg AND elite-level defense.
You see, this trajectory to NBA stardom is not usual. Oftentimes, from the moment superstars step on the floor, people can already tell they’re destined for greatness and they produce the stats to back it up. But with Jimmy, he worked on his game – slowly but surely – to get to the elite level he’s on right now. People forget Jimmy isn’t really the fastest, the strongest, or the smartest basketball player. He’s no genius in this game but he has the attitude of a game-changer.
He wasn’t gifted with elite level athleticism, large hands, or an extra-long wingspan. What he was and what he is now is a simple and plain hard worker. Among NBA circles, his work ethic is something his peers admire as he’s one of the few who workout starting at 4:30 am. While some players are still sleeping, he’s already on the grind.
Coming into this season, people labeled Jimmy as a locker room cancer. During his brief stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers, he definitely butted heads with teammates and coaches as that’s what Jimmy is all about. He has always demanded greatness out of himself and so naturally, he demands the same commitment to greatness from his teammates. Of course, this level of commitment doesn’t exactly work on today’s younger millennial NBA players and eventually, they pushed Jimmy off the team (Minnesota).
He was then traded to Philly where immediately he made his presence felt. And with that, he improved the team. Last year, they were one lucky 4-bounce buzzer-beater away from being in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the end, though, Philly management opted to go with a different approach as they wanted to make sure that Jimmy would keep in line with what they wanted.
Jimmy has always walked to the beat of his own drum and 76ers top management wanted to make sure that if they were going to give Jimmy the max contract (five-year/ $190million) he wanted, the coach would be able to ‘control’ Butler and not butt heads like in his previous stints with Chicago and Minnesota. Jimmy got word of this and basically went with a different team as he didn’t want to be controlled.
With the help of a huge endorsement from Miami HEAT legend Dwyane Wade, Jimmy chose to go to South Beach and join the HEAT. Contrary to popular belief, this 2019-2020 season and Bubble Playoffs proved that Jimmy and the HEAT were a match made in basketball heaven.
As an organization, Miami represented and encouraged everything that Jimmy was all about as a player. Always played every game for the win, and made sure that everybody was in tip-top shape, and outworked everybody.
They finished the season 5th in the Eastern Conference and nobody really expected anything out of them during the playoffs. But they absolutely dominated. They swept Indiana in the first round (4-0), and by the 2nd round, they faced Giannis Antetokounmpo and the #1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Most people predicted a cakewalk for Milwaukee and yet the opposite happened. Miami destroyed Milwaukee in a gentleman’s sweep led by Jimmy Butler locking up the reigning NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
That absolutely shut up all the haters and proved that the narrative of Jimmy being a locker room cancer was a load of bullshit and finally showed that he is just a winner. Whichever team he went to improved and got to the playoffs. And all of the teams he left? Well, let’s just say they’re like plants who lost their sunlight.
As the 5th seed, the HEAT were heavy underdogs going into the Finals. During Game 1, his teammates and arguably the 1st and 2nd best players on the team, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo got injured. Not to mention, Jimmy himself injured his ankle in Game 1.
Against all odds and with everyone expecting a Lakers sweep, the team never gave up and gave the Lakers more than they can handle. During Game 3, Jimmy went absolute god mode and had a 40-point triple-double while defending the greatest player of our generation in LeBron James. HEAT won and Jimmy proved he belonged with the league of the best players in all of basketball.
During Game 5, Jimmy came out again with another historic performance with a 35-point triple-double along with a win to keep the HEAT alive. Exhausted, Jimmy went toe-to-toe against LeBron at the end of the game and came up with a clutch bucket after clutch bucket while also defending LeBron on the other end. He rested for 49 seconds that game.
No matter what the odds are, he keeps producing when it counts the most. No matter the narrative, he always delivers. From the beginning no one ever expected Miami to reach the Finals. They weren’t serious contenders. They did not have geniuses unlike the Lakers with two surefire first ballot hall of famers in LeBron James and Anthony Marshon Davis Jr.. People thought Jimmy was good but not good enough to be the best player for a championship contender and this playoffs he proved the naysayers otherwise and in a rather absolutely spectacular fashion.
They lost the championship but Jimmy Butler definitely won the game. And as he said in his exit interview, “We’ll be back.”