Jimmy Butler is a true professional basketball player. He had to earn everything that has been given to him and is known for overcoming obstacles. From his father deserting the family when he was an infant to his mother throwing him out of the house, Butler never had it easy. Professionally, Butler was overlooked by major college programs but demonstrated that he has the most grit compared to anyone in the league.
Butler worked his way up to being a first-round pick in 2011. He won a Gold medal in 2016 and was hailed as the Most Improved Player in 2015. Later making four All-Star teams and leading the Heat to the NBA Finals, Butler truly has an iconic career that you can sell to future underdogs in the future.
Chicago Bulls 2011-2016
In 106 games for Marquette, Butler averaged 12.0 points per game. He was taken by the Bulls with the No. 30 overall pick. Butler played in 42 games in his debut season averaging just 2.6 points per game. Butler appeared in three games but failed to score any points. In the following season, Butler impressed the Bulls brass in Summer League by averaging 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. This led to his contract being extended.
However, Butler was not thrown into the lineup until Luol Deng suffered an injury, which forced Butler to have more playing time, increasing his points average to 8.6. In his second playoffs, Butler performed much better by averaging 13.3 points per game in 12 games.
By the 2013-2014 season, Butler was a prominent part of the team’s rotation. He set a new Bulls record by being active on the court for 60 minutes. He was named to the All-Defensive Second Team this season. The following year, Butler had a breakout year, scoring multiple 30-point games. That included a career-high 33 points against the Bucks in the playoffs. The Bulls eventually lost to the Cavaliers in the semifinals, but Butler was named the league’s Most Improved Player.
In the summer of 2015, Butler was offered a five-year, $95 million contract. Butler played well enough to be named an All-Star, but the Bulls, but were defeated in the first round. In his last season, he scored a new career-high of 40 points. He averaged 23.9 points in the regular season and 22.7 points in six playoff games. Many thought the Bulls would try and build around Butler moving forward, but the management wouldn’t commit to him. Instead, they chose a different direction, which some say sent the franchise back three years.
Minnesota Timberwolves 2017-2018
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, the Bulls traded Butler to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Laurie Markkanen. Butler played 59 games in the regular season for the Timberwolves, where he reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Butler averaged 22.2 points per game. With the addition of Bulter to Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves were ready to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The Timberwolves did exactly that by qualifying for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. After a first-round defeat in five games, Butler made it known that he had no plan of resigning with the Timberwolves in the offseason of 2019. That included the famous moment when Butler taunted teammates such as Wiggins and Towns during a summer practice.
Butler played 10 games for the Timberwolves the following year, averaging 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. His reputation took a hit for the noise he made about getting out. Ultimately, it was for the best as Minnesota received some value in return.
Philadelphia 76ers 2018
The Timberwolves completed a trade with the 76ers. Minnesota traded their disgruntled star and Justin Patton to Philadelphia for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and a second-round pick. The 76ers had also made a move for Tobias Harris with the Clippers. With Harris and Butler added to the team, alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the team thought they had enough to make a deep playoff run.
The 76ers finished the regular season with a 51-31 record, good enough to snag the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, the 76ers took care of the Brooklyn Nets in five games. The second round featured a strong seven-game series with the Toronto Raptors, which will forever go down in history as one of the best finishes ever.
The 76ers had a shot to go to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Kawhi Leonard had different plans. Leonard’s last-second shot bounced off the iron, went up in the air, and rolled in to give the Raptors the win. Embiid walked off the court in tears. Butler scored 16 points in his final game with Philadelphia.
Miami Heat 2019-Present
Butler did not have plans to resign with the 76ers, so the team completed a sign-and-trade that featured four teams. The deal sent Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers, Josh Richardson to the 76ers, Maurice Harkless and a future-first-round pick to the Clippers, and Butler with Meyers Leonard to the Heat.
Butler had an excellent first season with the Heat and proved all his doubters about his personality and work ethic wrong. Butler averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on his way to leading the Heat to their first trip to the NBA Finals since the days of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. This roster was not as talented as those teams on paper, but the Heat pushed the Lakers to a six-game series before falling.
The following season, Butler landed on the All-NBA Third Team after averaging 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and a league-leading 2.1 steals. It was the first time in 33 years that a player from the Heat led the league in steals. Over the summer, Butler agreed to a maximum four-year extension worth $184 million that would keep him under contract with the Heat through the 2025-2026 season.
At 32 years old, Butler remains on the search for his first championship. The Heat acquired veterans Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker this offseason. With a few surrounding pieces in Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and All-Star Bam Adebayo, the Heat will look to make a deep postseason run and return to the NBA Finals.