How NBA’s Jimmy Butler got out of homelessness to become the toughest player in the league

Jimmy Butler with his “emo” haircut at Heat media day on Oct. 2, 2023. Photo: YouTube/NBA

Jimmy Butler embodies resilience and the “never give up” spirit of the Black community. The NBA player had a difficult childhood, but he defied the odds to become who he is today. Born on September 14, 1989, in Houston, Texas, Butler’s father abandoned the family and so Butler was raised by his single mother. 

His mother kicked him out of their family home in Tomball, Texas, when he was 13 years old. He would spend years bouncing around from one friend’s home to another until his senior year.

He transformed when one of his friends, Jordan Leslie, welcomed him into his family. Leslie was a freshman football and basketball player at the time who had stints for various NFL teams as a wide receiver, according to TalkSport.

“They accepted me into their family, and it wasn’t because of basketball,” said Butler about Michelle Lambert, Jordan’s mother, and her family. “She was just very loving. She just did stuff like that. I couldn’t believe it.”

Butler attended Tomball High School in Texas and began college at Tyler Junior College in 2007, where NBC Sports Chicago said he averaged 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. 

With the support of Michelle, he went off to play college basketball at Marquette University and excelled during his junior campaign, averaging 14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while earning All-Big East Honorable Mention honors.

He also helped Marquette finish 11–7 in the Big East and earn its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. His performances attracted the Chicago Bulls, which eventually drafted him 30th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.

He would go on to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award for the 2014–15 season and also collect All-NBA and All-Defensive Team honors across his time with the Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, and 76ers.

In 2020, he became the pillar of the Miami Heat defense when he landed in 2019, propelling them to the NBA Finals in 2020 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the Lakers won the series in six games, Butler recorded 40 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds in Game 3. This made him the only player in Finals history to record a 40-plus-point triple-double, along with Jerry West in 1969 and LeBron James in 2015, as reported by TalkSport.

Aside from being a pillar on the court, Butler has also been making moves off the court including turning his love for coffee into his own brand, Big Face Coffee. Becoming a fan favorite, he recently played a poker game with Brazilian star Neymar and boxing icon Ryan Garcia.

While there were trade rumors recently surrounding the Miami Heat forward, reports on Wednesday said that Butler will be heading to the open market next summer. 

“He’s going to play out his current contract with the Heat,” Shams Charania reported on Stadium on Wednesday night. “I’m told he will not be signing an extension with the Heat or any other team ahead of his opt-out in 2025 free agency.”

Despite Butler’s past with his parents, he once said that he remains close to them, adding that he holds no grudges against them. “I still talk to my family,” he said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 27, 2024


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