Author: Ishaan Chadha
MADISON- In today’s society, being a professional athlete is considered one of the best jobs on the planet. These people get paid to play the sport they love. If you’re someone like me who loves sports, how can you not desire that? However, the casual fan doesn’t understand what these athletes had to go through to achieve success on the biggest stage. Many of the superstars in the game today, such as Giannis and Lebron, grew up in poverty and lived life paycheck to paycheck. The fact that they became superstars when they had nothing growing up amazes me, and I love how these guys use their platform to better poor communities. The life story of Jimmy Butler stands out from the rest of the NBA community. Since I’m a diehard Chicago Bulls fan, I’ve always been a huge fan of Jimmy Butler. He’s a two-way stud, and he plays every game like it’s his last. Even though he can be controversial at times, I respect his drive and his desire to bring out the best in his teammates. After looking into his life story, I gained even more respect for him. Now, he’s an NBA all-star worth over a hundred million dollars. If you need some inspiration in your life, this story is for you.
Jimmy Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas, a small town located 45 minutes northwest of Houston. When Butler was just an infant, his father abandoned him, leaving him with his mom. At just the mere age of Butler, 13 years old, his mother told him, “I don’t like the look of you,” and he was kicked out of his house and left to live on the streets. For the next few years, Jimmy would spend his time surviving by jumping from house to house when he should’ve been focusing on his schoolwork or enjoying his teenage years by going out with his friends and being involved in the sports community. Jimmy was experiencing struggles in life that most kids wouldn’t even think about going through. At this moment, due to a lack of a support system, his future was filled with uncertainty. Honestly, getting a college education seemed like a longshot. During this time, he focused on the one thing that never turned his back on him, which was the game of basketball.
Even though he put extra hours into the gym, Jimmy only averaged a mere 10 points per game as a junior and was recruited by no one. At the end of summer league, heading into his senior season, something magical happened. An incoming ninth-grader named Jordan Leslie was infatuated with Butler’s game, so when he had the opportunity to meet him after the summer league game, he challenged him to a three-point contest. Being the competitor that he is, Jimmy agreed, and soon the two became close friends. Throughout his senior season, Jimmy spent late nights staying over to play video games and eat home-cooked meals for the first time in what seemed like forever. Michelle Lambert, Jordan’s mom, quickly took an interest in Jimmy’s situation. Even though she was a single mother and money was tight, she decided that Jimmy needed a home, and she soon welcomed him into the Lambert household.
Jimmy’s life quickly turned around as he established a hard work ethic to set an example for the younger kids. He started paying more attention to his schoolwork, and his game began to improve as a result. During his senior season, he was named the Tomball high school basketball team captain and went on to average 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. Even after this resilient senior season, he wasn’t even a ranked recruit on ESPN, and Jimmy did not receive a single scholarship offer to a Division One school. So he was forced to go to junior college.
Jimmy packed his bags and began his freshman season playing for the Tyler Junior College Apaches. He played in empty gyms most of the time, but he was working on getting noticed by anyone who would give him a chance. Even though Jimmy had some big games, including a 34-point performance in his first conference game, the phone just wouldn’t ring. Since this is the story of a future NBA star, you might expect that this was where Jimmy began to flash the potential of the future NBA All-Star he was to become, but this was not the case because life was not meant to be easy for Jimmy. However, once again, life gave Jimmy another chance to shine.
While scouting another player, Marquette coach Buzz Williams spotted a player who seemed to be working harder than every other man on the court. Although he was still an unranked recruit, Marquette decided to give him a chance by offering him a scholarship. For the first time in his life, hard work truly paid off. Once he arrived at Marquette, he was even more determined to take his game to the next level, but again life threw him another curveball that had to be overcome, and that challenge came in the form of Buzz Williams.
Williams was incredibly hard on him, sometimes bordering too much, but he endured it, and he ended up flourishing from it. However, success would not come early as a sophomore Butler averaged only 5.6 points a game and played less than 20 minutes a night. Practices were even worse as Williams constantly targeted Butler. Buzz ran practices like a military boot camp. Sometimes, this practice involved two days of non-stop running in a secluded campground in the Wisconsin wilderness. Also, players weren’t allowed to use their cell phones, and they weren’t even allowed to watch TV. At one point, Jimmy found himself close to quitting. He soon thought about Ms. Lambert, and he knew that he couldn’t let her down because that was the first person in his life to believe in him when no one else did. So, he put his head down and grinded.
After spending a lot of time with Buzz, Jimmy would eventually see him as the father he never had. JB went on to finish his Marquette career with a college degree and was a starter as a junior, and he was named a Big East honorable mention. In this era of basketball, first-year college students are seen as the future superstars of the league. Therefore, Jimmy, a 22-year-old senior, had the odds stacked against him as he entered the 2011 NBA draft. At this point, Jimmy was projected to be a 2nd round draft pick. However, after his senior season, Jimmy attended the Portsmouth Invitational and was named the MVP of the entire event. His defensive prowess quickly caught many NBA scout’s eyes, and his draft stock started to go up. In the 2011 NBA Draft, the kid who was once homeless, the kid who was once unranked in high school, was taken 30th overall by the Chicago Bulls.
Clearly, Jimmy proved all of his doubters wrong through his unbelievably strong work ethic and his ability never to give up even when his basketball future was in jeopardy. But once again, life would give Jimmy a roundhouse kick as he struggled to find time on the court for a veteran Chicago Bulls team. At this time, Jimmy was nowhere near the player that he is now. His game could nicely be described as unpolished, especially on the offensive end. JB would only play in 42 of the Bulls games his rookie year and only averaged 8.5 minutes in those games. It’s challenging to go from a garbage time player to an NBA superstar in this league, which Jimmy desired. Unlike most players who would be satisfied just having a role on a team, Jimmy was determined every single day to show coach Tom Thibodeau why he deserved to be a key piece in the Bulls rotation.
When Rose was fully healthy during the 2015 season, that’s when Jimmy began to shine on the offensive end. Butler averaged 20 points per game, 5.8 rebs, and 1.8 steals per night, and he was named to the 2015 NBA all-star. What’s even more incredible is that he became the first Chicago Bull ever to be named the NBA’s most improved player. After the 2015 NBA season, Jimmy signed a max contract worth ninety-five million dollars, and throughout the last five years, he has proven to be worth every penny.
Even though he was once homeless and playing ball at a junior college, Jimmy defied the odds to not only make it to the NBA, but he established himself as a perennial all-star. Butler is an anomaly, and that unique quality has driven him to be successful on and off the court.