The unlikelihood of Jimmy ‘Himmy Buckets’ Butler’s dominance

A career like no other may be cemented in NBA Finals



Jimmy Butler is looking to cement his ‘Himmy Buckets’ nickname in the NBA Finals.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor

Many NBA fans know that Jimmy Butler defied the odds to make the NBA. From being kicked out of his home at 13 to playing at Marquette and becoming the 30th pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA Draft, analysts did not expect Butler to become an All-Star. 

In his rookie season, he played just 8.5 minutes per game, averaging just 2.6 points in his limited playing time. Limited playing time for rookies is not something out of the ordinary for then-Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, so it was not necessarily a sign of a lack of worth ethic or skill.

After a full offseason in the NBA, his sophomore season saw Butler play in 26.0 minutes per game and bump his scoring averages up to 8.6. He also started in 20 games in that 2012–13 season and became a full-time starter from there on out. 

Butler made his first All-Star team in 2015, starting a streak of five consecutive appearances to the festivities, a part of six total appearances for his career. In the same year that he made his first All-Star team, he was named the league’s Most Improved Player as he went up to 20.0 points, 3.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. 

However, on draft day 2017, he was dealt from Chicago to the Minnesota Timberwolves, which unknowingly to the NBA world, was going to turn into a beautiful rollercoaster of events. 

For the Timberwolves, Butler became an All-Star again and led them to their first playoff berth since 2004, breaking the then-longest active playoff drought in the league. 

Despite being one of many promising pieces on an up-and-coming team, he felt dissatisfied with the effort shown by his more youthful counterparts. 

In a now-infamous moment, he challenged the rest of the Timberwolves starters to a game during a practice where he played with the third-string players, a game in which he won in a relatively convincing fashion. 

Once the media spectacle of that died down, Butler was on his way to his third team, this time being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, a team with aspirations to win it all. In his half-season there, he did not put up godly numbers, but he also was not far-and-away the best player anymore. 

Despite their lofty expectations, they fell short thanks to one of the single-greatest game-winners in the history of the league, by Toronto Raptor’s Kawhi Leonard. 

In the ensuing offseason, the team made the mistake of letting Butler walk and with his newfound freedom, he signed with the Heat on a four-year deal and in 2021 signed a four-year extension. 

Playing in south beach has been great for Butler, who, in the bubble playoffs of 2020, helped lead the team to their first NBA Finals appearance since LeBron James left many years ago. While they fell short to James’ Lakers, it was a fantastic season nonetheless and Butler began to be recognized as one of the best players in the league come playoff time. 

Last season, the Heat were one game away from returning to the Finals, a series they lost to the Celtics and in which Butler took the last shot of Game 7, a shot that barely missed its mark. 

In the postgame press conference, he promised that his team would be back in the same position in this current season, but with one difference. They were going to get the job done.

And indeed they did, albeit with very different circumstances. In the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat took a 3-0 lead on the Celtics but then proceeded to lose the next three consecutively. In Game 7, they blew out Boston on their home court en route to another NBA Finals appearance, this time against the Denver Nuggets. 

Butler, who averaged 24.7 points per game against Boston and has averaged 28.5 in this year’s playoffs, has gotten the nickname ‘Himmy Buckets’ by fans from around the league, a nickname he has filed a trademark for as of Tuesday

A player who has always played better in the playoffs, Butler is looking to cement his legacy and cement his nickname into NBA history against the Nuggets. If he is able to come out on top against the favored Denver squad, the 2023 Heat season will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.