The Untold Folk Legend of Jimmy Butler
In Monday night’s Bulls-Heat game, we saw an outstanding team performance from Chicago and an even more outstanding individual performance from the formerly anonymous Jimmy Butler, scoring 21 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and matching up with LeBron James to force him into a -15 performance. What’s even more impressive is that Butler did all of that with no rest. Literally not one second of game was played without Butler on the court. And it’s not the first time he’s done that this postseason. He’s done it three games in a row! That’s 144 minutes (and counting) of consecutive playoff basketball for Butler.
If you watch the Bulls play this season, there’s definitely been a stress on Thibodeau’s next-man-up philosophy that expects bench players to fill holes vacated by injured starters and not miss a beat, but the postseason performances from bench-quality players have been unreal. Until Monday night, not many basketball fans outside of Chicago’s base even knew who Jimmy Butler was. Now, all of a sudden, he’s a hero who played 96 straight minutes to close out the Nets then, two days later, stood toe-to-toe with the league MVP on a week’s rest and beat him.
It’s a great week to be Jimmy Butler. But what about his career before this week? Who was Jimmy Butler 144 playoff minutes ago? Similar to Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, Butler has a personal history that some say exists only in the stories of his followers. Some might say that Jimmy Butler isn’t a basketball player as much as he is a human embodiment of inspiration and the collective spirit of a small, but excessively blustery town. You know, the stuff legends are made of …
The Untold Folk Legend of Jimmy Butler
On a dry, dusty hell of a day in late 1989, Jimmy “Texas Jim” Butler worked his way out of his mother in Houston, Texas. Technology was limited, but doctors say he chewed through the umbilical cord halfway through the second trimester to give himself the challenge of performing on short rest. In the common era, most NBA statisticians count the last two months of his mother’s pregnancy as playoff minutes.
As a child, Butler dribbled a tumbleweed all the dusty way from Houston to a suburb called Tomball, mostly through double-teams and poor weather. Along the way, he met and rescued a horse named Solidarity from a particularly thorny bramble patch, using only his lateral movement and unbelievably quick hands. The horse was injured so badly that injured that Jimmy powerfully hoisted it upon his own back and carried it (with dribble still alive) throughout his travels.
Having only his tumbleweed basketball, a set of spurs and a recovering Solidarity, Jimmy bounced around from small Texas town to small Texas town, challenging bigger, stronger and older men to no-rules one-on-one games as a means of earning food, clothing and shelter.
On the dustiest of dusty days in Texas, he defeated the rootinest, tootinest, scootinest, cowboy-bootinest hometown Texas baller in a controversial (basketball) shootout. After the game, a dusty (pistol) shootout left Solidarity dead and Butler grieving. Shocked at the loss of his trusty sidekick, Butler swore off the game that took his horse from him and dedicated himself career to a career in communications.
“Texas Jim” tirelessly communicated his way out of the dusty Texas towns and into Marquette University. He communicated into the early hours of each morning, until there was no one left to communicate with. And that’s when the real communicating started. In four years at Marquette, Jimmy Butler posted a record of consecutive minutes communicating that experts believe will never be broken.
Everything was going lickity-split for Butler until the twister came, the biggest, baddest, most menacing twister anyone had ever seen. The tornado’s only weakness was a small circle at its peak that would destroy the wind tunnel if filled with a spherical object. And that’s when Jimmy Butler became a basketball player again.
He only had the one tumbleweed ball, the same one that had been with him though the dusty days on the hot Texas blacktops. The townspeople encouraged him to shoot a jumpshot at the twister, but Jimmy knew better. With all the wind and the movement, a jumper wouldn’t work, he wasn’t going to waste his one shot like that. No, he was going to have to dunk it.
With a running start off the town water tower, Texas Jim worked into the depths of his well-rested basketball potential and unleashed a 3,300-inch vertical jump that resulted in a rim-rocking, backboard-breaking, tornado-defeating facial and order was restored.
After seeing the twister-defeating dunk on the news, The Chicago Bulls drafted Jimmy Butler in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft. He went into a basement cell of the United Center to start logging playoff minutes and didn’t emerge again until the 2013 postseason, in prime condition to take the world by storm.
And that’s where Jimmy Butler came from.
Aside from all this mythology, Jimmy Butler has overcome some serious personal obstacles and his real-life story is just as inspirational. You can find some great reporting of it on ESPN.