“Heart, hustle, and muscle.”
That saying – made famous by Chicago Bulls color commentator Stacey King the past few years – always seemed cliche, as many “Stacey-isms” do.
Well, it did until Jimmy Butler stepped foot onto the court for the 2014-2015 season.
By now, you’re probably familiar with some rendition of Jimmy Butler’s story: A kid from Texas, who has been slighted more times than anyone feels comfortable acknowledging. A kid that was homeless, overlooked, and misunderstood for much of his life.
That’s the Jimmy Butler most don’t know as a person.
He’s overcome more obstacles than many will even face in their entire life. And he’s hurdled all of them and kept his eyes moving forward.
That’s Jimmy’s heart.
On the court, Jimmy Butler sports certain character traits that you don’t see often enough in professional sports today. He’s mentally tough, refusing to give up despite how difficult the game of basketball, or the game of life, may be. He’s proven that time and time again, and it’s the primary reason he’ll be paid handsomely this offseason.
That’s the hustle.
And last night in the Bulls’ 99-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Butler exemplified the saying’s third component in remarkable fashion.
Banged up from head-to-toe, Jimmy Butler fought through repeated brick-wall screens after landing awkwardly on LeBron James’ foot coming down from a jump shot.
While the shooting wasn’t up to his much-improved standards, Butler battled for 44 minutes vs. LeBron James; giving the best player in the world hell all night long despite taking a forearm to the chest and a knee to the back of the head on the same play. Not once did he back down because that’s what Jimmy Butler does.
That’s the muscle.
Jimmy Butler defended LeBron in 73-of-75 possessions last nite. James shot 7-of-18 when he was primary defender w/5 TOs via @ESPNStatsInfo
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 5, 2015
Butler’s brilliance isn’t always flashy, but it has been more than usual here in his breakout, All-Star season. Never complaining once, the dude just flat out competes with a quiet confidence that instills peace of mind in Bulls fans.
Even if he’s in a fucking wheelchair, when it’s all said and done, Jimmy Butler will find a way to lead the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. I have confidence saying that because of the confidence of Jimmy Butler.
I won’t hide behind the fact it’s much easier to say after the Bulls took a 1-0 series lead. But you can feel it: This is the year the Bulls finally topple LeBron in the playoffs. And that’s because, among other factors, the man guarding the league’s most recognizable player has developed into one of the league’s most complete.
“His name might be more well known than mine, but I’m just here to compete. I’m here to play.” -Jimmy Butler
Butler on LBJ: "He really is a talented player in this league, but I don’t think that intimidates me not to the slightest bit."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 4, 2015
Jimmy Butler’s emergence this season has provided the Bulls and their fans with a unique type of player. A player with a willingness to elevate the play of those around him and a competitive fire that matches his skill. In Chicago, we haven’t truly had someone like that since Scottie Pippen. (Luol Deng was close, but he never reached the level Butler has by age 25.)
Healthy Derrick Rose or not, any Bulls team before this one would be fearful of playing LeBron James and for good reason.
But thanks to the breakthrough of Jimmy Butler, who would walk on one leg to ensure that the Bulls move onto the Eastern Conference Finals, that isn’t the case anymore.
(Featured Image courtesy of CelticsBlog)