Road to Success: A Jimmy Butler Story

Jimmy Butler shooting a free throw for the US basketball team | Courtesy of Galepedia
Jimmy Butler shooting a free throw for the US basketball team | Courtesy of Galepedia

The road to success is rarely an easy one. Many fall and stumble along the way, and others just give up before the journey even begins. The strongest people are the ones that keep going no matter how many detours life gives them. Jimmy Butler is an All-Star in the NBA who endured the path that was set for him, and because he did, he is now worth millions. From being told, “I don’t like the look of you—you gotta go” by his own mother, to becoming a valued player for his respective team, Jimmy Butler struggled countless times, but despite it all, he stuck to what he knew best and became the player and person that he is today.1

Logo of Jimmy Butler’s first basketball team | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jimmy Butler was born on September 14, 1989 in a small town in Texas called Tomball, a suburb of Houston. Butler’s life was not always as glamorous as it is now. He had trials he had to face as well. Butler’s father left at an early age forcing him to live with his single-parent mother, until one day when he turned thirteen, his mother told him, “I don’t like the look of you, you gotta go.”2 The young Butler had no direct help, and at times, he was seen homeless. But he moved from one foster home to another, constantly hoping to find a place to stay and call home.

While playing basketball with a friend in high school, Jimmy Butler was invited to go play video games with his future best friend Jordan Leslie, and it was there that Butler finally found a place to stay. In this home, Butler met his mother figure Michelle Lambert, who helped with his growth and made him promise that he would go to college and make something of his life.3

Jimmy Butler decided to take basketball more seriously, but at the end of all his efforts, he was still just an average player. Coming out of high school in 2007, Jimmy Butler was ranked 72nd in Texas, which, when put into perspective, is not all that great.4 The only ranked players that most college scouts look at are in the top twenty. So the fact that Butler was ranked 72nd meant that no college was really looking at him, because the stats did not show that he was an amazing player. Due to his ranking, and with no big colleges willing to recruit him, Jimmy Butler had to start his college career at Tyler Junior College, where he was again an average player.5

Butler played at an average rate during his time at Junior College, but, in 2008, it was his work ethic that got him into Marquette College, a Division 1 university.6 While playing during a game, a coach from Marquette noticed how hard Jimmy Butler was working in comparison to the other players, and he gave him an offer to go play at Marquette.7 Of course, Butler jumped at the offer. For him, this was a dream come true. It was at Marquette that Butler met his new inspiration and father figure, head coach Buzz Williams.8 Coach Williams was hard on Butler, and Butler knew that he was being hard on him. During Butler’s time at Marquette, Coach Williams scheduled a mandatory practice week during Fall Break, and had the whole team, including Butler, participate in two-a-days in the middle of the wilderness. A two-a-day is a more intense and strenuous workout. Instead of being on Fall Break and enjoying their time off, the whole basketball team had to participate. 9 Coach Williams pushed Butler to work hard, but Butler pushed himself harder. Butler knew that he was an average player; his stats showed that, and his rank showed that. He wanted to change that stigma so badly that he became obsessed. During practices, Butler would get so upset when he would make a mistake, he would start cursing and getting down on himself so much that he performed worse because of it. It got to a point where coaches would deduct points for his tantrums to try to calm him down so that he would perform better.10 Even though he had this unhealthy obsession, his hard work began to pay off.

Logo of college Jimmy Butler attended | Courtesy of Wikipedia

When the draft came around in 2011, Coach Williams reached out to the Celtics, the Clippers, and the Bulls, and he talked to them about Butler’s work ethic and potential. All teams were uninterested, but it was the Bulls that took a chance on Butler and picked him last of the first round in the NBA draft.11

While in college, Butler honed his obedience to the point that he would only do what was asked of him by the Coach, and that translated to his shot at the NBA. An example of Butler’s obedience was shown during a game against the New York Knicks when they had Carmelo. Butler was asked to guard Carmelo. During the middle of the game, point guard Derrick Rose was being doubled-teamed so he passed the ball to Butler and even though he was wide open, Butler passed it back to him. When a timeout was called, Rose asked Butler why he did not shoot the ball; Butler simply said, “I’m only guarding Carmelo.”12

During Butler’s first and second season, he had very average statistics, but he proved himself during the playoffs of his second season. In the 2013 playoffs, Jimmy Butler had above average stats, and because of that, he was able to become a full-time starter for the years that followed.13

On October 16, 2014, the Chicago Bulls were playing a very intense game against the Atlanta Hawks. The game went neck and neck from the beginning. The players lined up for the last second-and-a-half of the game, with the score 84-82, Atlanta Hawks leading. The ball was in-bounded by the Chicago Bulls. As the referee gave the ball to a Chicago Bulls member, all players started scrambling around, either to get open, or to play defense. In a split second, Jimmy Butler barely got open, got the ball, and took the shot…and made a buzzer beater three-pointer that solidified the Chicago Bull’s win over the Atlanta Hawks.14

The hero of the game, Jimmy Butler, had amazing stats, such as 29 points while shooting 8 for 14, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals, all while playing 31 minutes, which was the highest stats recorded in that game.15 On top of those stats, Jimmy Butler hit a game-winning shot and he was not even considered an All-Star until after this game. Through this hard work, determination, and unwillingness to give up, Jimmy Butler has shaped up over the years, despite all his hardships, and became a player like no other in the NBA.

The year 2015 was Jimmy Butler’s breakout year. By averaging 20 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game, and 1.8 blocks per game, Jimmy Butler had shown that he was more than an above-average player and was named a 2015 NBA All-Star. Despite being kicked out of his home at a young age, being an average player in his youth and college life, and being drafted last of the first round, Jimmy Butler still managed to become an amazing player and became the first Chicago Bull to be named the NBA most improved player.16

Jimmy Butler went from a player that nobody wanted because of his lack of skills, to a player that almost everyone wants and is willing to pay millions for. Even though he had a rough upbringing, Butler continued to strive for more, even through all his fame and promotion, and that is what set him apart from many other players. Butler became an All-Star, played on the USA Basketball Team, and made multi-millions. But despite all of his accomplishments, he remained humble and continued to work hard day-in and day-out.17

  1. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  2. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  3. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  4. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  5. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  6. “Jimmy Butler College Stats,” College Basketball at,
  7. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  8. Nick Friedell, “Butler’s Unlikely Path to NBA Stardom,” ESPN, November 25, 2014,
  9. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  10. Lee Jenkins. “Jimmy Butler,” Sports Illustrated, no. 127 (2017): 39.
  11. Nick Friedell, “Butler’s Unlikely Path to NBA Stardom,” ESPN, November 25, 2014,
  12. Lee Jenkins, “Jimmy Butler,” Sports Illustrated, no. 127 (2017): 40.
  13. “Jimmy Butler 2013-14 Game Log,”,
  14. The Game Jimmy Butler Finally BECAME A STAR! | FreeDawkins Youtube, 7:12, September 20, 2018,
  15. “Hawks vs. Bulls – Box Score – October 16, 2014.” ESPN, October 16, 2014,
  16. From HOMELESS to ALL-STAR? The NBA’s Most Incredible Story! Youtube, 11:59, December 2016,
  17. Lee Jenkins, “Jimmy Butler,” Sports Illustrated, no. 127 (2017): 40.

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This Post Has 60 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jimmy Butler’s story of coming up from nothing and becoming one of the NBA’s most shining stars is truly incredible, and inspiring! I feel really bad that he had to go through the situations he had to, but at the same time those experiences only fueled him more to work harder and achieve his goals. This story shows that anyone can do anything if they just put their minds to it, and are passionate about whatever they do.

  2. Avatar

    I have never been a fan of any kind of sport, I’ve been to one Spurs game in my life and only owe one shirt of them. I also never heard of Jimmy Butler and his story to success but after reading this article I can tell that he had and still does, an amazing passion for what he does because of all the effort that he had to do to become from a player without skill nobody wanted to hire to a player many people are willing to pay millions of dollars for.

  3. Avatar

    I always really enjoy reading stories of professional athletes, because they always have amazing and inspiring backgrounds that made them into what they are today. It is a very unique journey that Jimmy Butler took to the NBA, it is great to know that he took every advantage of what he was given to him in life. I am honestly really happy for him, it is rare to see someone have such a big goal and actually do all the hard work to complete it.

  4. Avatar

    Jimmy Butler has been a staple in the NBA for a lot of what I can remember. I never knew he was from Texas, though and Tomball nonetheless. Also, hearing about Tyler Junior College, I have had a couple friends go play there for baseball, but I could never imagine any of them ending in glory such as Butler.

  5. Avatar

    Personally, I don’t follow individual NBA teams. I follow players. I follow 3 players Paul George, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmy Butler. I try to take things from each of their play styles. The thing I take from Jimmy’s game is his dawg mentality and toughness. His perseverance is something to be marveled. I love watching him and reading about him.

  6. Avatar

    I’ve always been a fan of basketball and have followed the paths of tons of NBA players. Jimmy butlers road to the NBA is one of the most touching and inspirational paths out of everyone I’ve seen. Having his father leave him at a early age didn’t stop him from living his dream of being In the NBA. His mental toughness is what makes me such a great player in the NBA and at life.

  7. Avatar

    I have never really been really invested in basketball that much, the closest thing I have to being invested is owning a few Spurs shirts and occasionally a few Spurs games, other than that I no nothing about the sport so I have never even heard of Jimmy Butler before. Hearing about Butler’s story and how he overcame great odds and worked hard to get where he’s at is something that’s admirable.

  8. Avatar

    Jimmy Butler’s path to the NBA is inspirational to most of us because it shows that not everyone who is successful started off that way. Although there are players in the league that didn’t have a rough life growing up, such as Steph and Seth Curry whose father was in the NBA when they were kids, not everyone had it that so easy. Butler’s path to the NBA tells a story of a friendship in which Butler’s friend allowed him to stay at his house rather than being homeless if he had promised that he would go to college. Unfortunately, college recruiters didn’t believe in his skills (although to be fair, he did have to improve) but it was this lack of attention that pushed him to work hard and eventually be drafted into the NBA. Once again, Butler was doubted, because he was drafted only 30th overall. However, he prevailed and as history has shown it, he improved each season until now, where he is recognized for his work ethic and determination as an NBA star.

  9. Avatar

    I have always seen Jimmy Butler playing on TV but I never really knew about his background and all the struggles he overcame. He is such a great player on the court and it is really inspiring to hear how he literally came from nothing and tried his best at every opportunity he got leading him on the path to become something great. He has proved himself both on and off the court by overcoming these obstacles.

  10. Avatar

    Jimmy Butler is one of those people that had nothing going for him but despite that, he still achieved his goal of getting into the NBA and becoming a superstar. The only thing he had was work ethic and his passion. That is all you need in life to become successful. Now he is an inspiration the kids who weren’t dealt a good hand in life.

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