No NBA superstar — including the otherworldly Nuggets center Nikola Jokic — is having a better playoffs so far than the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler.
The two-way wingman has led his team — a #8 seed — into the Eastern Conference Finals and has now snatched Game 1 from the heavily favored Boston Celtics, in Boston, to begin the series.
Heavily favored? Butler loves to hear he’s an underdog — he’s been one all his life. No Duke or UCLA scholarship for Jimmy; instead he toiled a year at a Texas junior college before making his way to Marquette University.
And Butler, despite his strong play at every one of his previous NBA destinations — Chicago, Minnesota, Philadelphia — has only since arriving in Miami finally found himself the alpha hooper of an organization, the go-to guy. And Jimmy Butler remembers — remembers where he wasn’t appreciated.
Like Michael Jordan, who used any slight real or perceived to motivate him, Butler takes his grievances and uses that special superstar alchemy to turn them into gold.
After the Game 1 win in Boston, Butler slammed his most recent former team — the 76ers — without even calling them out by name. Instead, Butler quietly shamed the 76ers by implication with his statement about why Miami is different from other places he’s been:
“I’m playing at an incredible level because they’re allowing me to do so, they’re not putting a limit on my game, they’re trusting me…I think that’s what any basketball player wants. That’s what anybody wants out of life is just to be wanted, be appreciated, and just let you go out there and rock.”
Former Sixers head coach Brett Brown didn’t give Butler that opportunity in Philly, and neither did management when they let Butler go to Miami, preferring to pay huge money to players like Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. But Butler has it now, that trust — and it shows and he glows:
76ers star center and 2023 NBA MVP Joel Embiid, who keeps failing out of the playoffs without Butler, has indicated in the past that the Sixers let Butler walk because of their high regard for Simmons, once an All-Star and now a benchwarmer in Brooklyn who can’t find a way to shoot the ball.
Harris, a capable player, is now at home with Embiid watching the Heat play Boston. Think Butler doesn’t remember that the Sixers essentially chose Harris over him, too? Think again — see below: