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Culture Shock

Jimmy Butler’s Ascension to NBA Stardom


Jimmy Butler was not supposed to be successful. He was not supposed to attend college. He was not supposed to be an NBA All-Star. And he was most assuredly not supposed to receive a max contract this summer worth 90 million dollars over five years. But, through sheer determination and a work ethic most people would consider insane, he proved everybody that doubted him wrong. From his childhood to his time at Marquette University and even now with his career in the NBA, Jimmy Butler has been defying odds for as long as he has been living.

At age 13, Jimmy was kicked out of his home. The last words his biological mother said to him were “I don’t like the look on your face. You gotta go.” Throughout the rest of his childhood and high school days, Jimmy bounced around from house to house and basically raised himself. Jimmy had as tough of a time growing up as anybody, but the one thing he enjoyed was basketball. Going to the gym and working on his game was his escape. He was a very good high school player, but was under-recruited because no college coach knew how or where to contact him because of he was homeless. After one year of dominating the competition at Tyler Junior College, Marquette University offered him a scholarship. Jimmy made his decision by faxing his National Letter of Intent from the local McDonalds. Without any parental guidance, it is remarkable Jimmy didn’t get himself into serious trouble growing up. He learned responsibility at a very young age and didn’t have anybody to count on besides himself. This made Jimmy live his life with a chip on his shoulder, constantly trying to prove his skeptics wrong. This mindset molded him into arguably the hardest working player in the NBA.

The critics didn’t stop after Jimmy stepped foot on Marquette’s campus, they only grew bigger. Throughout his three-year career he never made an all conference team and was always considered to be a ‘role player.’ When teammates like Jerel McNeal, Lazar Haywood and Wesley Matthews were touted as the stars of the team, Jimmy Butler was the forgotten one. When the NBA Draft rolled around after his senior year, the doubting hit its ultimate maximum. NBA scouts saw him as a ‘glorified role player’ that lacked the ability to be a starter at the NBA level. Executives saw him as a good defender, but as a liability on the offensive end. Gar Forman, the Chicago Bulls GM, drafted him 30th overall because he liked his work ethic. But I don’t think anybody in the NBA, not even Jimmy Butler, saw what was to come of this late first round draft pick.

Throughout the first three years of Jimmy’s career, he proved himself to be the steal of that draft. The Chicago Bulls’ former coach Tom Thibodeau was wowed by Butler’s work ethic and immediately fell in love with his ability to guard practically any position on the floor. But being known solely as a defensive player was not good enough for Jimmy. So, he decided to change up his offseason workout routine last summer. He lived in an apartment with no TV, no access to internet, and basically no means for entertainment. All he did was go to the gym and work on his game, just like he did when he was a kid without a home. Jimmy came back for training camp a whole different ball player on the offensive end and was in better shape than anyone. He was approaching the last year of his rookie contract last summer, and in October the Bulls’ front office offered Butler with a contract extension of 40 million dollars for four years. For most late first round draft picks, that would have been a dream come true (considering most drafted that low end up in the NBA Developmental League). But Jimmy refused to accept the contract extension. He knew he was better than what the Bulls offered him, and boy was he right. Butler went on to average 20 points and six rebounds per game that year, not to mention becoming an NBA All Star and being elected NBA’s Most Improved Player. Now, he just received a max contract offer from the Bulls worth more than twice as much as the extension offered in October. Jimmy Butler proved the whole Chicago Bulls front office wrong, just like he continues to prove his mother wrong for kicking him out of her house. Now she is watching her former son become a multi-millionaire on TV.

Follow Brian on Twitter @brianmischler


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