Jimmy Butler; Relight the Flame


image via Miami Heat

“Miami basketball,” a phrase synonymous with a group of nasty, tireless, hard-nosed, dauntless players within the Miami Heat organization. One such group led by one of the most notorious NBA players, known for his fire and, well, HEAT: Jimmy Butler. 


This year was Butler’s first season at Miami, and boy has he made an impact. He took the Heat from a team that wasn’t even making the playoffs one season to one who knocked off the number one team in the league, even making it to the NBA Finals, but more on that later. 


When Butler made his decision to come to Miami, he was met with lots of discourse. Headlines read, “Opposing [General Manager] calls Jimmy Butler immature and selfish” and “‘…kinda a loser move to leave Philly.” Butler was called a hypocrite, as he claimed he was all about winning. Yet many thought the decision to go to Miami didn’t align with that narrative. Butler was berated on how bad an idea it was and how he and the Heat wouldn’t amount to anything anytime soon. Jimmy Butler didn’t care. He went full steam ahead toward South Beach and never looked back.


One of the significant reasons Butler was so berated was his history with his past teams. Butler has been part of three other teams throughout his career so far – the Chicago Bulls (six seasons), the Minnesota Timberwolves (one full season plus ten games), and the Philadelphia 76ers (over half a season) – making Miami his fourth team in the past four seasons.


As per Butler’s personality, he has not shied away from sharing the reasons he left those other organizations. He said he frequently clashed heads with his coaches and teammates, going as far as publicly saying, “I just want to play with guys who care.” He’s believed that the players and coaches of the past teams he’s played with have been “soft,” divided as a team, and didn’t work as hard as possible.


That all changed when Butler came to Miami. He admitted that during his first week as a Heat player, he simply tested the waters, gauging the players and coaching staff. By the second week, he was sold. Butler attributed this to the no-nonsense attitude of head coach Erik Spoelstra, the underdog mentality and the organization’s players’ thirst to prove themselves, and the overall culture established by the legendary President of the Miami Heat, Pat Riley. Butler went as far as taking rookie Tyler Herro under his wing, a decision that shocked the media due to the assumptions of Butler’s ‘locker room etiquette.’ 


As time progressed, Butler’s quarrels with his previous teams panned out to be true. The coaches he complained about eventually got fired, the teams got worse after he left, players stayed lazy, and most of those teams didn’t make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Miami only got better.


While looking at the scorecards, Butler’s numbers won’t jump out at you; it’s the impact he’s made off the court that has paid dividends. Sure, Butler has high scoring games now and then, but that’s not why Miami has gotten better. It’s because Butler has helped Miami’s younger players shine. 


Butler has brought out the confidence in the young sharpshooter from three, Duncan Robinson; transformed Bam Adebayo from a mediocre player last season to a top-three center in the league, the runner-up for Most Improved Player (MIP) and All-Defensive Second Team; and helped bring to form players such as Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr., and rookie of the year runner-up Kendrick Nunn. With the help of these players and veterans such as Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, and Andre Iguodala, Miami became a team with incredible depth and thorn in everyone’s side. 


The Heat went from not making the playoffs last year to having an incredibly improbable, yet,  impressive run to the finals, their first berth since the ‘Miami Big Three’ era. This run consisted of the Heat taking out the number one team in the NBA, Milwaukee Bucks, a team which has the back-to-back MVP and Defensive Player of the Year – beating two of their rivals, one being a 4-0 sweep against the Indiana Pacers, and the other a grueling six-game series against the Boston Celtics. In the finals, they had to face the heavy favorite Los Angeles Lakers. 


The Heat lost in the NBA finals 2-4 but proved themselves a major threat in the future. With a largely young team, amazing leadership and coaching paired with the beautiful city of Miami it is no doubt that Miami is a free-agent destination for players looking to win. Jimmy Butler lifted this team from a fringe playoff team to a championship-contending team, and surely intends to get Miami back into the finals several times and bring the championship back to South Beach.