There’s only one Jimmy Butler. He plays with his own style on the court, he dresses how he wants to off the court, and he most certainly doesn’t care what you think about him. He knows who he is and he’s emphatically comfortable in his own skin.
In a dimly lit auxiliary locker room underneath the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, Butler walks in wearing a pair of Sacai x Nike Blazers and a striking Valentino sweatsuit. He sees his new Miami Vice No. 22 jersey set up in a locker alongside a few of his Air Jordan XXXI PEs, as well as a couple unworn Jordan 1s. Without a second thought, Butler sits in the seat to the right of the locker setup and throws his feet up on the other chair.
“I’ll sit wherever I want.” he deadpans to a request to move a foot over for the sake of photographs. After a nervous couple of moments around the room, he looks up and jests, “I’m just fucking with you. I’ll move.”
That’s Jimmy Butler in a nutshell. He knows the reputation he has, but that doesn’t bother him. He's going to continue to be comfortable in his own skin, even if it makes everyone else in the room uncomfortable. He’s going to keep making jokes, he’s going to continue not to care what you think, and he’s going to keep winning basketball games.
Butler is a four-time All-Star. He’s been on an All-NBA teams six times, and he has been to the playoffs seven out of his nine seasons in the league. Even with that being the case, Butler has been questioned and second-guessed along the way. He has an alpha personality that has led to some uneven relationships with former teammates, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota, but he has finally found a comfortable new home in Miami.
“The Heat wanted me to be me,” Butler said. “They came in with a mentality like, “Just be yourself and work the way that you work.”
With most NBA players today, sneaker free agency is nearly as compelling of a conversation as basketball free agency. Upon entering the league, Butler signed an endorsement deal with Adidas, where he rotated through myriad sneakers like the Crazy 8 and the Kobe 2. But before the start of the 2014-15 NBA season, Butler opted not to re-sign with the Three Stripes and instead join the Jordan Brand family for what was reportedly 75 percent less than what Adidas had offered him.
Butler’s time with the Jumpman has been successful. He has his own signature logo and has been fortunate enough to have a number of his own PEs, two of which have actually released to the public.
“Just to know that my fans in the world could have a sneaker that was personal to me was really cool,” Butler says.
As Butler looks to continue leading the upstart Miami Heat to the top of the Eastern Conference, we sat down with the perennial All-Star to talk his relationship with Michael Jordan, how he deals with his haters, Mark Wahlberg, and more.
How’ve you been adapting to Miami so far, both with this new team as well as getting used to living out here?
The weather is always great. I think that’s the biggest change. Everywhere else I've been, it's just been stupidly cold. I'm here now. I'm happy here. We're winning, which is what really, really matters. I'm in a good place.
What's the biggest adjustment you think you've had to make on and off the court?
Off the court, not too much because I do the same thing. I mind my business. But somehow, someway, I still end up being an asshole somewhere, and I'll never figure it out. On the court, I think just the role has changed a little bit. But we're winning. Everybody loves playing with one another. There ain't no hidden agendas out here. As long as we continually buy in, we're going to continue to win games, and that's what it's about.
You mentioned your on-court role changed a little bit. You can distribute the ball, but you're not a traditional point guard.
Who's not a point guard?
Not traditionally. Not a traditional point guard.
Shit. Give me a point guard I can't guard. Give me a point guard that can guard me. We don't want to go down this road. This game is positionless, isn’t it? I think that's where my team's at right now and we're winning that way.
Now when the time comes where it's like, "Hey, you got to score a couple more baskets," that time will come and I’ll be here. But right now, we're in a groove and everybody is so comfortable in their role, and I like it that way because I don't play for stats. I don't care about 13 assists or three assists. We just need to win.
You have your own individual style both off the court and on the court as well. Do you pride yourself on that?
There's only one of me, and you're either going to like it or you're not. Either way, I truly don't care. But on the court, I would like to consider myself a dog. I just play hard and do whatever my teammates and my coaches ask of me. Off the court, it depends on how I'm feeling on a certain day. Today, I'm a little bit under the weather, so I'm pissed off. If I wanted to sit in your chair, I was going to sit in your chair.
We can switch if you want.
Nah, I don't want your chair. I feel comfortable here now. But that's it. However I feel when I wake up in the morning or however I feel when I'm getting ready to go to the game, you'd probably be able to tell by the way I dress. If I'm in all-black, I'm probably pissed off at the world.
Do you have style influences or people that you look up to for style inspiration?
Not really. I like to wear my people stuff. So like, Neymar and his Nikes and shops like that. If I’m playing football, AKA soccer, I'm probably in his turf sneakers or his cleats. Mark Wahlberg, if it's Jordans. The people that I'm closest with, those are my influencers. But I'm going to rep them before I rep anybody else.
"If you are intimidated by a pair of sneakers that somebody got on, I think you're in the wrong line of work."
So I actually want to talk about Mark Wahlberg a little bit. It’s kind of an unexpected friendship for people that don’t know about it. Is it still going strong?
Any new fun stories come up recently?
No, I think he's working right now. Obviously, I'm working right now as well. But the friendship is what it always is. If I call him, he's picking up. If I text him, he's hitting me back. It's just real, man. We care about one another and he teaches me so much about life. He's great at what he does. I'm not too bad at what I do, but it's more than just our professions and what we do for a living. He's always asking about my family. I'm fortunate enough to be able to be friends with his kids as well. It's more than just what meets the eye.
That's a line from Transformers.
See, there you go. I didn't even know that. But it's true. It's a real friendship and I'm fortunate to have him.
How much is the Jordan Brand responsible for your friendship with Mark [Wahlberg]?
Zero. Absolutely zero. I think I met Mark when I was with Adidas. Yeah, that was before the whole Jordan brand thing. We happened to cross paths in Chicago when I was working with the Bulls and he was filming Transformers. The dude's just incredible. He said, "Yo, here's my number. Text whenever you come out to L.A.” We ended up going to Europe together. Now it's 2019, and I feel like I could call, talk, text him about anything. He's been through way more in life than I have been, so he's very knowledgeable, very wise on so many different things.
You mentioned Adidas. You used to be with that brand and then joined Jordan for what was reported as less money. What went into that? Why the Jordan brand?
Fuck if I know. That's a good question. I really don't know. My life just growing up it was like, everything was M.J. I knew who M.J. was and I had an opportunity to sign with the brand, so that was it. I think I got another year or two left on my deal, and then we'll see where this goes.
Back when you were on Sneaker Shopping, you emphasized even more about how loyal you are to the brand. You said you didn't even wear Nikes. You're wearing Sacai Blazers now. Have you lightened up on that a little bit?
Yeah. Me and Jordan aren't in a good space right now.
You care to expand on that a little bit?
Nah. We're going to leave it at that.
Let’s talk about the jerseys behind you. These Vice uniforms have been some of the most popular in the league, the best selling city-edition jersey since Nike took over the NBA uniforms. Where would it rank in all the different uniforms you’ve worn?
I haven't seen my skin complexion inside of these jersey yet, so I don't know how sexy I'm going to look. So I have to really put it on. But, it's hot. It's definitely different and it's Miami. You know these colors are that unique. I would put them at the top. I'm putting it up there with the black Chicago Bulls jersey with the pinstripes and the script.
You have your own signature logo. What have been your favorite PEs?
Probably the XX9 and the XXXI.
Not the VI?
No. I didn't have too much to do with that. They just put my name on it.
Not a lot of people can say that their PEs have actually released. But your Air Jordan VI dropped and your Jordan XXIX Low dropped when you were with the Bulls. What is it like to be able to say that you can?
Those are my two best PEs that came out. It was dope to have a XXIX where people could buy them and I could see people walking around in them. I can get all of these for my people as well, but just to know that my fans in the world could have a sneaker that was personal to me was really cool.
How much of an influence did you have on your logo?
A lot. It's a basket. It has the Texas star at the top. My initials are in there. A lot of time went into it. I'm trying to think of how many years it's been. Probably since I was like 24, 25, something like that. So six years with the brand now, but I had a lot of say in that logo.
So there was a game in 2018 when you went back to Chicago and you played in Eminem IVs. It’s one of the most iconic sneakers of all time. What went into your decision to wear those in a game?
You got to make a statement whenever you go back to Chicago for the first time. I feel like I did that. With those shoes everyone was like, "Damn, he's really out there hooping in those." Not the most comfortable shoes to play in, I'll tell you that, but it looks amazing. And then after the game, I gave them to the equipment guy that was with Minnesota, Clayton, who’s still in my corner to this day. So he has a pair of Eminem Carhartt IVs, and I'm sure he has no idea how much they're worth. It's never about money with me and my people. This was the first time I played at Chicago in these sneakers. It's a memory for me, it's a memory for you, and here are the sneakers. I don't care how much the shoe cost, or how much it's worth or none of that stuff, that's my guy, that's family. So he has them in his collection.
When you put on a pair of shoes like that, you go into the game, is there any extra confidence wearing a pair of Eminem Carhartt IVs on the court? Maybe intimidation against the other guys, anything like that?
If you are intimidated by a pair of sneakers that somebody got on, I think you're in the wrong line of work. No matter what sneaker that I put on, I go on the court thinking I'm the best player every single night. And I'm going to do whatever it takes for my team to win. You do come up short sometimes, but hell, if I got on two sneakers, one sneaker, no sneakers, I'm going out there and I'm competing. But you put on a nice pair of sneakers, you look good, you feel good, and you play good.
So some players have said they can remember certain moments from special games, and they can tie them back to a pair of sneakers. Any sneakers that are special to you because you've had great performances, or special games, special moments, anything like that?
Man to tell you the truth, I can't even remember. My memory is already terrible as it is. We play so many games. I can't even truly tell you what games I scored 15 in or I had a triple double in. I can't even tell you.
You said on Sneaker Shopping you had a pair of shoes for every day of the year. I can only imagine what it's like now.
Yeah. It's way past that now. We get boxes and boxes of stuff, and I actually just told [my stylist] the other day like, "Stop opening it." I feel like we're taking up more space if we just keep it in the box and just shove the box in the corner. There's just so much of everything around the house and in storage.
If you had to put a number on it?
I can't put a number on it. It's stupid and it's crazy because my rotation is very small now, unless I know I'm going to be photographed, then I'll wear something that's fire. But other than that, I'm sticking with my Neymar sneaks, with my Wahlberg IVs, and my UGGs.
Wahlberg IVs, is that your favorite shoe right now?
Probably my black Neymar Shox. I would wear them shits everywhere if I could. I would wear them to hoop in, just because that's my guy. I'm going to start wearing Paul [Pogba’s] shit when he with Adidas.
What about the Neymar V lows, do you have those?
Yep. I do. The gray ones with the black tint. I do have those somewhere. That's what I'm saying, it's so many pairs of sneakers that I can't even tell you where they're at. They're in Miami.
You keep on saying that Neymar's your guy, what's it like being able to bond over both being Jordan Brand guys? All of PSG is now on Jordan brand.
It's dope because I get it for free, so that definitely helps. But I'm just fortunate enough to be able to call him a friend and support him in his craft. He's one of the best to ever do it. So it's great that I can pretend that I can play football. I actually had a match the other day and I just want to say, on record, I scored three goals and five assists. That's all I'm going to say. I love being around good people, he's got great people around him. Some of [Neymar’s] friends are here now, and we just hang out just because we both love basketball and soccer.
What's your favorite Jordan of all time?
If I'm walking around, the Jordan I. If I'm going to hoop, Xs. I do have a pair of X PEs as well. Actually, a couple of pair of PEs. I just don't really wear them.
I don't know if you like Xs as much as Kemba Walker. He's in them basically every night.
Yeah. He can have it. I don't think that those shoes are made to really hoop in like that no more, you know what I mean? So you hardly ever catch me in Xs any more. I stepped to the new-age Jordans.
Got one more Michael Jordan question for you. What's it like being at Michael Jordan's birthday party?
I think it's kind of like the norm for me now. Maybe the first time I was like, "Damn, look at him." And then you go to the party over and over again, and it's like, "All right, maybe I do belong here for a reason." It was the same thing when I first got into the NBA and when I first became a All-Star. But even at his birthday party, he came up and was talking to me on a first name basis. It's not just like a hello and you keep on moving, it's like a hello and we got a 30, 40 minute conversation and then you're just sitting down to dinner. It's just something that you couldn't tell me or many people, that you'd be able to do that in your lifetime.
You mentioned earlier that no matter what you do, some people are going to say you're an asshole. People are out there questioning if you're a max player or not. What do you say to that?
That I signed a max deal, so kiss my ass, for one. And two, I don't care that you don't like me. It means nothing to me. I mean everybody's entitled to their own opinion. I have my own opinions too. Not too much gets to me because I know who I am. It is what it is. It's the world that we live in man. People don't want people to be happy. I accept it, but that's them. They trying to take joy away from somebody else, doesn't work for me.
Kind of like that LeBron quote, from one of the Finals runs, where it was him talking to his haters and was like "Well, they are where they are right now and I am where I am."
Right. There's nothing that nobody can do about it. We going to continue to grow and continue to be happy and change the world in however many different ways that we can. We're just going to be stuck in complacency if we worried about somebody else consistently. That for one, is not healthy. How you going to be worried about somebody else so much all the time?
You really got to care about somebody to just go out of your way and constantly try to bring their name down, or run their name through the dirt. People say that your haters are your number one fans. They're thinking about you a lot. That's all I'm saying.
There’s a thin line between hate and love, right?
"I'm sticking with my Neymar sneaks, with my Wahlberg IVs, and my UGGs."
Social media is a huge thing in the NBA these days. Players are on social media, analysts, media, everybody's always on social media. What are your thoughts on the relationship between the NBA and social media right now?
Shit. I don't really pay attention to it man. Anything that you do can be good or can be bad, it just depends on how you use it. And it's another thing that you can read and get everybody's opinion, good or bad. And then you start comparing, good or bad. I try to limit as much as I can because I don't want nobody comparing nobody. I just think there's a lot of stunting that goes on on social media. Don't nobody care how much money you got. Nobody cares how much you have. You still got to be a good person to make it in the world, anyways. Money can just get you places and maybe get you to see people, but if you're not a good person anyway, social media, all that stuff, don't help you.
What are some of your other favorite personalities in the league?
Definitely Kyrie. It's Kyrie till the end of the world. Whatever he believes, he's rocking with it. Not in my league, I like Ibrahimovic. He's not in my league, but he's a real one, he's a real one.
Melo is back in the league.
Yeah, good, good, rightfully so.
I assume everybody in the league feels that way.
Yeah. I mean come on, it's Melo. If you know Mel, you know he's one of the best teammates and best human beings to be around. He still got game. I just hope it works out for him, I really do. I don't think anymore players can just use Melo as a scapegoat. It's not Melo's fault, it's just not. And he's going to go and do his thing, I know he is. Let's give my man the right situation, the right opportunity, he'll show everybody what everybody already knew anyway.
I want to talk about D-Wade now. Obviously, playing in Miami, do you feel like you have big shoes to fill here?
Nope, because I don't compare myself to him. I tell everybody that all the time, that's my guy. I'm fortunate to be able to talk to him all the time as well. There's not going to be another Dwyane Wade. There ain't going to be another number six LeBron James that played here as well, or a Chris Bosh or Ray Allen. You just come in and you do what you do to try to get your name where their name is. We're not going to compare. Plus like Butler County doesn't even sound as good as Wade County sounds. He's special here. When you mention his name around the city, it's like we know who that motherfucker is—rightfully so. But I'm so glad that he got to go out on his terms the way that he wanted to go out. I'm not going to say that I wouldn't love to play with him again, but I know if he's not going to go play with LeBron in L.A., he damn sure not going to play with my sorry ass again.
You do have Miami going for you though.
That's true, but he's in L.A. So, if he would pick to be able to watch his son play or be here and be away from his son, I would hope that he would pick to be in L.A. and play with LeBron. It's just me.
What advice has he given you for being the face of the Heat right now? Has he passed the torch?
The best advice was just to be myself. They came in with a mentiality like, "Work the way that you work.” That's why I'm smiling every single day, because being me is good enough here.
So the Heat are having a real strong start to the season. I assume you don't think that's surprising. Why are the Heat off to such a hot start?
We don't care. We don't care because I think we could be a lot better. We're not paying attention to beginning-of-the-year talk. We're not paying attention to the standings. We do pay attention to offense and defense, and all that stuff. We’re just out there competing and trying to be the best Miami Heat team that we can be. We're not caught up in the media because that's when it gets to comparing. And we don't want any of that, we just want to live in the now and let the future be the future and keep the past right where it is.
I want to get away from that basketball real quick. One of the biggest things happening right now is Colin Kaepernick’s workout, What are your thoughts on that?
I think he should definitely be in the league. You're talking about whenever he got put out the league, what he had already done. You mean to tell me he's not good enough to be a backup? In my opinion, because I'm entitled to it, I can give you a good five names that he's better than that are starting quarterbacks.
You want to?
No, I do not. But I'm taking him over a lot of people that I sit down and watch. But you know, I'm in the NBA. He'll have a job soon. I know that.
I want to wrap up with: What do you think the Heat need to do to make a run?
Keep winning. Keep the league on notice. Keep the world on notice. We're going to be just fine. We might be surprising people now, but sooner or later, motherfuckers can't keep being surprised. Like if we win 15 in a row, are y'all going to still be surprised? That time's coming to where we'll really have to improve who we are and we really going to make our mark on the league. You may not know the guys that are on our roster now, but you will. And that's what we're putting our money on. We've got so many guys that you may not now, but they know that you don't know them. That's their drive that's putting them over the top. We play so hard. We play for one another. We play for our organization. We play for the city.