For the record, Jimmy Butler absolutely is not advocating for mayhem on the court. Nor is he endorsing the kind of violence reserved for professional wrestling or the NBA of the ’80s and ’90s.
But if he’s keeping it real, the Heat’s All-Star forward wouldn’t mind seeing the physical brand of basketball the league was known for a few decades ago creep back into the game. You know the one I’m talking about. The kind that featured more banging under the basket, contact on the perimeter, and hard fouls that—under the right circumstances, especially if the Heat were playing the Knicks during the height of their rivalry—occasionally led to fists flying instead of the push-fests pervasive in today’s NBA.
“They’re not letting you get into no brawls no more,” says Butler. “Nobody’s going to let you do that. I wish that they would let us do that a little bit, if I’m just being honest.”
While Adam Silver and the rest of the league office in New York might recoil in horror at Butler’s playful suggestion, the NBA can rest easy knowing the leader of the Heat doesn’t walk on to the court trying to purposely start shit. That’s because Butler has a responsibility to stay in Miami’s lineup and a famous mug to preserve. Notably, you’ll see it in a star-studded Super Bowl commercial debuting Sunday.
The day after Butler was named an Eastern Conference All-Star reverse, the sixth time he’s earned such an honor, one of our favorites from the Association hopped on Zoom to talk about a few things. Like the one retired athlete he’d love to have a beer with, why he wishes there were more fights in the NBA, and how much fun it was to film the special Super Bowl spot with some fellow famous athletes.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Tell me about your participation in Michelob Ultra’s Super Bowl spot.
It was really fun, especially with the other athletes we had with the spot. I think it just goes to show that it really isn’t worth it if you don’t enjoy it. You’re talking about all the names that we have in the spot, the amount of women and amount of men, it’s the same. And on top of all of that, it was just really fun to get to know the individuals that I got the opportunity to work with. It’s not every day that you get to cross paths with some of the greatest athletes of all time. It really brought a smile to my face that I could be the least talented athlete on set every day.
That’s debatable. You filmed it with Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, Brooks Koepka, and Alex Morgan, who are all pretty familiar with TV commercials. Who’s the best actor/performer in front of the camera out of all of them?
Probably Peyton Manning. I mean, he’s always on TV. All of them are so great at what they do, but I feel like I watch a lot of American football—I watch a lot of soccer/futbol as well—but I think Peyton Manning just does so well in front of the camera. You can listen to him talk about football all day long. His acting skills are great.
If you could have a beer with any retired athlete—dead or alive—who would it be, and why?
I would say Ronaldinho. For one, I think soccer is just so incredibly difficult. If I’m being really honest, my favorite athlete was Alex Morgan, just because I love soccer, from the Super Bowl spot. All sports are difficult, but I can barely walk and chew bubblegum, so to be able to run full speed while kicking a ball is incredibly difficult and I wish I could do it. He’s from Brazil, man. He’s just so much fun to watch whenever I watch his highlights. A Michelob Ultra with him—I bet he’s got hella stories.
Wanted to talk basketball with you. I just finished this book on the ’90s Knicks, Blood in the Garden. I grew up rooting for that team and Pat Riley basically serves as the book’s main character and there are hilarious tales about the insane lengths Riley would go to motivate the Knicks—including dunking his head into a bucket of ice-cold water and holding it for two minutes to show how tough he was. What’s the most memorable motivational ploy you’ve seen from Riley?
I can’t say he’s dumped his head in any type of cold water, but he has a way with letting me know. He’s coached the greats, he’s been around the greats, so you need to go about things the way that they did. If they were great, one of the best of all time to do it, they know what they’re doing. I’ve seen it. I’ve been around it. He’s not throwing it in your face, but he’s just letting you know if you want to be great, if you want to win a championship, you want all of this, this is how you have to do it. We always buy in because he’s always right. If you’re talking about the Knicks or the Lakers, he’s been around those teams and those players. So it’s like, you know what? Maybe he’s right. There are not many times that he’s down there talking, but when he is, everybody’s so locked in because it doesn’t happen often.
“The game has just changed. It’s not as much banging and knocking people to the ground anymore. You can’t do it like that—you get a flagrant 1, a flagrant 2, a tech, something. I wish it would go back to that time.”
The Knicks-Heat rivalry after Riley left to coach Miami was incredible. I know the league office hated that the teams got into brawls occasionally, but I kind of think something like that’s been missing from the league. I’m wondering if you think the NBA’s lacking some of the intense rivalries from years ago?
I don’t think so. There are some real rivalries out there. I just think the game has changed in a lot of ways. They’re not letting you get into no brawls no more. Nobody’s going to let you do that. I wish that they would let us do that a little bit, if I’m just being honest. I really do think they’re still there. The game has just changed. It’s not as much banging and knocking people to the ground anymore. You can’t do it like that—you get a flagrant 1, a flagrant 2, a tech, something. I wish it would go back to that time.
Now you have rivalries like the Jokic brothers vs. Miami. They’re different these days.
I don’t think that’s a rivalry. It sounds good. But I don’t even want to get into it. He’s a hell of a player.
You’re a crypto guy who now wades into that world like a bunch of other NBA players. Why do you think cryptocurrency has become such a popular venture for guys across the league?
I think everybody is starting to learn about crypto, or wine. Whatever the topic is, there’s always somebody that knows more than everybody else. So everybody’s just bouncing thoughts and ideas off of each other. I think that’s what the majority of conversations are—just getting intel about whatever is going on, because there’s always somebody that’s really locked in on something that can teach anybody anything. So as much as crypto is becoming a big thing, I think that the conversations about and around crypto is so everybody can learn what everybody else knows around the league.
Did you pick it up from someone around the league before getting into crypto?
Yeah, probably [Andre] Iguodala. The dude is a genius in more ways than one. Obviously, basketball talent, yeah. Overall, good dude. Great dad. But it’s like, if you have any question about crypto or what to invest in, that’s who you pick up the phone and talk to.