Jimmy Butler seems simultaneously driven by vibes and bottom-line results. How do we reconcile his impeccable intensity with his love for life?
Jimmy Butler will drop 40 points. He will let fly. It will rain. A rivulet will become a torrent. He will flood the court. But the most devastating thing about Jimmy Butler is that the 40 or whatever else he posts in the box score will never add up. He’s marching two by two to some inevitable end, but he’s not exactly constructing arks, and after two games of carrying his Miami Heat on his back through a flash flood warning, his final heave of a 3-pointer looked a bit flat, came up a bit short, and left him submerged in his own aftermath, no life raft, no nothing.
No worries, though, the vibes persist. The grind is never-ending.
On his radio show, Dan Le Batard said of the Miami Heat’s Eastern Conference loss to the Boston Celtics, “You guys won while losing and nobody ever gets to do that.” Scour social media long enough and one can find the cynics in green pecking at the Promethean romance currently unfolding in South Beach. They wonder why the sun shines in unequal proportion on Miami’s loss compared with Boston’s victory, and the caveman heft of such questions is that participation trophy sentiment has seeped into the minds of modern-day sports fans.
The vultures believe that to no longer see winning as the only point is to lose not just the thread but the needle itself, and the tweet that can’t fathom how a person could respect the hell out of Jimmy Butler’s relentless efforts and Jayson Tatum’s emergence simultaneously is also likely to urge a person back into the office yesterday when the job could have been done from anywhere at any time.
What’s happening here is for the moment. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will get their due. They will be congratulated for having made the Finals or elevated to one pantheon or another if they upend the league’s current gatekeepers, the Golden State Warriors. But this Miami Heat squad and particularly Jimmy Butler also just underwent a confirmation. No longer limited to asterisked runs inside the Bubble, the team and its star etched something a bit more permanent this year, if not final. Think of a hamster let loose from its wheel. Think of that same hamster running and running, legs like buzzsaws even as the falcon’s talons lift it from the ground. The image is hard to shake. And so is the bloody apotheosis of Jimmy Butler. It calls for a drink to both celebrate and calm the nerves.
Jimmy Butler is everything, everywhere, all the time
Earlier this week Micah Wimmer wrote about Jimmy Butler’s transformation for FanSided:
Despite not being seen as one of the NBA’s best players, Butler may be something more than a star. He is a culture incarnate, someone whose presence alone can transform a team into something more than the sum of its disparate parts.
But that presence extends beyond the court.
In a league obsessed with potential and high ceilings, Jimmy Butler is cruising at 30,000 feet. He is performing Hootie and the Blowfish-enthused karaoke and responding to a teammate’s request for a beer. He opens the fridge door. The light clicks on. A lone Michelob Ultra awaits. A chaser after all those shots on the court. But Jimmy doesn’t drink alone, and he doesn’t permit his teammates to drink alone either. So what does Jimmy do? Jimmy calls up the captain, “Jimmy Butler speaking – we’re going to have to make a pit stop.” When Wimmer writes that Butler “knows how to compartmentalize” between the competition and living life, these ad spots are that knowledge put into action.
In what is to date a Michelob trilogy of sorts, the first installment features Jimmy packing his luggage while singing along to Hall and Oates. The ad campaign barely registers that Butler is a basketball player. The last item to make it into Jimmy’s bag is a Miami Heat jersey. The scenes are devoid of pressure as well as accomplishment. If being like Mike in the ‘90s meant being a messianic basketball star, then being like Jimmy is more akin to being after a vibe the way a man drinking Ocean Spray on a skateboard is after a vibe. That is to say, there is no there there, and you will not find Jimmy Butler in the Bay Area over the next two weeks. He will be on a plane.
But anyone who’s watched Jimmy Butler ball knows he’s after more than just vibes. He wants it all: the intensity and the separation.
He’s been through Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, and at age 32, he’s airborne with a destination somewhere between burnout and fade away. His ETA is still to be determined in large part because the objectives remain so clouded. He’s waiting on Wilt Chamberlain to save him from Jerry West dreams, but unlike Jerry, he seems to know where the work ends and the fun begins, at least while the camera’s rolling. And so the whole reason to enjoy Jimmy Butler is to step in line and flirt with the devastation sure to arrive whether or not the shot drops.