Jimmy Butler is who Jimmy Butler tried to tell everyone Jimmy Butler is. He's the kind of player who can go out there against one of the best players of all-time on the biggest stage in basketball and give you one of the best performances ever. Literally.
There are zero flukes on that list. No random decent player going off. LeBron, Jordan, Shaq, Magic, Barkley, Worthy, Iverson, and future Hall of Famers Curry, KD, Draymond and Tim Duncan. If the Heat win this series, Jimmy Butler makes his case pretty clear.
Even if they don't win, Butler has ascended to a place that only Jimmy Butler rightfully had a reason to believe he could reach. He averaged 15, 6 and 2 at Marquette and was then drafted 30th in 2011. There was nothing remarkable about his first few years in the league. He appeared in 42 games as a rookie and scored 2.6 points a game. His second season he averaged 8.6 points a game.
Then Tom Thibodeau found a workhorse. After hardly getting off the bench as a rookie, he was playing 38.7 minutes a night in his third season. That was enough to lead the NBA in minutes by his fourth season. Blinded by a love of Jimmer Fredette, I personally thought Butler was playing too much. I was an idiot, but as stupid as I was, I was not alone.
As Butler blossomed into an All-Star, it looked like Thibodeau might run him into the ground, but Butler outlasted Thibs and eventually made it out of Chicago. He was traded to the Timberwolves for less than the Pacers got for Paul George, which seemed wrong at the time and even worse three years later. Anyone could have had him.
Butler took a quick look around Minnesota and rightly surmised his teammates were not up to the task. He embarrassed them in practice and on ESPN and was traded again in 2018. Again for nothing. In Philadelphia he helped take the 76ers to the final second of game seven against the team that won the title.
That's when the 76ers traded him to Miami. The Heat game up Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson to get him. Literally, any team in the NBA could have had him multiple times throughout his career and he still would have been good. Who knows if Miami is the only place where he could be this great, but that's where it happened. That's where he played one of the best NBA Finals games ever.
Even the Miami Heat could have had Butler earlier. They had the 31st pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. They could have moved up a couple spots. They could have traded for him in one of first two places where he was a disgruntled star. Not that it matters. He ended up in Miami and now they're here and there he is. Jimmy Butler. The man who out-LeBron'd LeBron in an NBA Finals game. We shouldn't be surprised. He kept telling us.