Road to Success: A Jimmy Butler Story

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 55 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Butler came from nothing and made something of himself all on his own. He decided basketball was going to be his stability and relied on that to get him through and out of the life he lived. It is such a great story that leads to such a great outcome. He really worked hard and deserves everything good coming to him.

  2. Avatar

    Jimmy Butler is the best example out there that shows you can achieve whatever you want if you’re willing to work hard and put in the work. He showcases maturity beyond his years when he is young. Instead of quitting because it seems as if he’s lost everything, he keeps on working and tries to achieve the impossible. Everything that he has gone through made him ready for the NBA, his work ethic is like no other. From being nearly homeless, having no D-1 offers, to being an All-Star and one of the best players in the NBA all because he worked harder than everyone around him is a great example of why we should work harder every day.

  3. Avatar

    This story makes me admire Jimmy Butler so much more than I did before. He had to go through so much in order to get where he is today. Most people that watch him on TV today would think that every thing was given to him in high school and college. Being able to reach the NBA and play at the level that he does is amazing. Everything he went through before made him more prepared for the NBA. I feel like he doesn’t care what the media say or think about him. He is true to himself and what he thinks is right. This is a great underdog story.

  4. Avatar

    Great to see hoe even though Jimmy Butler had all the reasons to just be another statistic, he did everything in his power to do prove them wrong. A superstar that wasn’t born but actually made is one of the best stories to hear about. He was never anything too special throughout his life compared to other basketball players and worked hard to surpass many of them shows that hard work really is crucial and that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

  5. Avatar

    Most NBA players stories start off by saying how gifted the individual is and how he just had it down since day one, but Jimmy Butler is a different story. This man didn’t even take basketball seriously until high school when there were many other players who started playing basketball seriously since they were in elementary. This shows Jimmy’s work ethic and how he needed to outwork everyone because of how far behind he was compared to everyone else.

  6. Avatar

    This is certainly a underdog story. Jimmy butler who came through all the denial and hate, to show them up when all the odds were against him. It is clear that Jimmy is a strong man to have been able to overcome his obstacles and rise to the occasion. Most people in these situations will give up or fall to the ground. But not this guy. He became one of the top players in the NBA and can only get better. He is truly an inspiration and I’m glad to have been reminded of this amazing story.

  7. Avatar

    The story of Jimmy Butler will always be very inspirational. The way he came from nothing and now is competing at the highest level of basketball is incredible. Being homeless and then getting the opportunity to play for Tyler Junior College, which is only 30 minutes from my hometown in Longview, Texas. Then getting to play at Marquette University where he was finally drafted. That story is just crazy! Makes you think anything is possible!

  8. Avatar

    I am glad that this article was written about Jimmy Butler. He is not usually talked about a lot because of the lack of flash in his game. Despite this, he is still one of the most effective NBA players on both the offensive and defensive ends. He is one of the best at playing both sides of the floor. It is always good to hear a story about a basketball player fighting through adversity and capitalizing on the opportunities given to them. Jimmy Butler is the prime example of someone who had to claw their way to the top. Anyone that watches Butler play can see the tenacity and determination with which he plays. He is an all-around great basketball player that anyone would be glad to have on their team.

  9. Avatar

    Jimmy Butler’s story is one I will always admire. At an early age, Jimmy Butler had already hit a hard path in his life. His father left at an early age and was disowned by his mother at the age of thirteen and was homeless at a certain point in his life. Jimmy never gave up and ended up playing D1 ball at Marquette. Jimmy has proved that he not only a great basketball player but that he is a good person. He shows this by his on and off the court attitude and work ethic. Jimmy Butler’s story only continues to be greater as he is not looking towards his 9th NBA season with the Miami Heat.

  10. Avatar

    I will always admire individuals that succeed even though all odds are against them. Butler’s story is truly inspiring because having rough upbringing tends break people rather than build them but he used all of his disadvantages as motivation to be great. Not only is he a great basketball player but he also proven to be great individual that is driven by his work ethic and drive – shutting down all distractions. I didn’t know much about Butler but reading this article really makes me much more interested in following his career closely. Great article!

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