The Jimmy Butler Story: Why The Sixers Conflict Will All Be For Good

The Jimmy Butler Story: Why The Sixers Conflict Will All Be For Good

A team that has persisted and grown in the face of adversity, like the Sixers, can certainly withstand some drama of this small magnitude

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The trade for Jimmy Butler to my Philadelphia 76ers was one that cemented the status of the Sixers as an established team with three superstars. While I was dismayed that we gave up core pieces of "The Process" in Robert Covington and Dario Saric, Butler adds an undeniable mental and athletic edge to the young and growing team, especially with Markelle Fultz's mysterious shoulder injury.

Finally, we have three players with star credentials in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Jimmy Butler. But naturally, with all-star talent comes all-star level egos, and Jimmy Butler recently made headlines where he allegedly "aggressively challenged" Coach Brett Brown during a team film session about his role in the offense, where some who witnessed the confrontation called it "disrespectful."

Already, about two months after trading for Butler, alarm bells have been ringing off in the minds of analysts and critics of the team. This was why he was traded from the Timberwolves, they said. This is why Jimmy Butler is a "locker room cancer."

But let's take a step back and look at the story of Jimmy Butler and how he came to be the star of Jimmy Butler we know today, in one of the stories of transcendent ascendance we have rarely seen in the NBA.


Jimmy Butler was once homeless in Tomball, Texas, a town outside of Houston as a teenager. His father abandoned the family as an infant, and his mother kicked him out of the house at 13, telling him "I don't like the look of you. You gotta go." With no means of surviving on his own, Butler survived by staying with families of different friends. Every couple of weeks, Butler had to move to another family's home.

His senior year of high school, he moved in with the family of his best friend, Jordan Leslie (now in the NFL). Leslie's mother, Michelle Lambert, was initially reluctant to take him in: Butler didn't have the best reputation in Tomball, and the family struggled with finances having to take care of seven kids. But they took him in under the condition that he was a good role model for the younger kids in Lambert's family. She would be a guiding force for the entirety of Butler's life.

"That's my family. That's Michelle Lambert. She is my mom," Butler said of her.

His story is often equated to the basketball version of The Blind Side, a movie about the life of Michael Oher, an NFL offensive tackle. The biographical movie features Oher's homelessness as well, his adoption by the Tuohy family, and subsequently becoming a first-round draft pick in the NFL.

But although Jimmy Butler graduated high school a talented basketball player, he didn't play in the AAU. He went to a Tyler Junior college before transferring to Marquette on scholarship. He received offers from many elite basketball programs, like Clemson, Kentucky, and Marquette, but ultimately, Lambert persuaded him to go to Marquette.

"That's a great academic school. I told him he should go [to Marquette] because basketball may not work out long-term. He needed a good education and a degree to fall back on."

At Marquette, Coach Buzz Williams stated that he'd never been harder on any player as much as he was on Butler. According to Williams, "I was ruthless on him because he didn't know how good he could be. He'd been told his whole life he wasn't good enough." He eventually became an elite college player who could seemingly do everything on the court: rebound, defend every position and lead the team.

Despite his adverse circumstances, Butler did not succeed because of the pity other people had for him, but rather from courage. When Butler was going through the draft combine in 2011 he urged Chad Ford of ESPN to not take an interpretation of his life story that made people feel sorry for him.

"I hate that. There's nothing to feel sorry about. I love what happened to me. It made me who I am. I'm grateful for the challenges I've faced. Please, don't make them feel sorry for me"

The unfavorable circumstances were turned into positives for Butler. Because of what he's overcome, he believes and inspires others to believe that they can overcome everything. I'm inspired by Butler's story in the mere writing of this article, and more so too by his career. This is a man who went from averaging 2.6 points per game his rookie year to becoming a four-time all-star, four-time all-defensive player. Butler's individual work ethic, determination, and drive are the best of the NBA. I believe it is true that he himself can do anything.

But can he will other people to do so? Is his intense style too headstrong for the players and coaches around him? It certainly was in Minnesota. But the media is also certainly reading too much into a small conflict and blowing it up. The Sixers have obviously been through their own share of adversity through the Process, evident in 10 and 18 win seasons. A team that has persisted and grown in the face of adversity, like the Sixers, can certainly withstand some drama of this small magnitude, and the expectation that a team clicks within two months of having its pieces together was unrealistic in the first place. If there's any coach I trust to get these pieces together, it's Brett Brown.

Since Jimmy Butler joined the team, the team has gone 16-5. He is clearly helping the team win, and I have complete faith that Butler and the Sixers will be fine, and that any growing pains the team goes through will all be for good.

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Why College Athletes Should Not Be Paid

Dont they already get enough?
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Throughout the years big name college athletes have been trying to get six-digit numbers in their bank account before making it to the pros. What they do not understand is that college is not a place of work and that it is meant to further education for a future career. Also, no college, big or small, has enough money to pay them. They have to pay to build facilities, pay coaches, give scholarships, and pay athletic directors to make sure that the school has the best chance of winning. Despite the fact that most athletes do not have money to get by while they are in college, schools do not gain enough revenue back from the money that they put into their sports programs. They are technically already paid with a free education due to their scholarship, and all of the different sports would not be able to be paid the same amount.

If colleges were to pay their athletes, there would not be as much money to go around for any of the other things like the facilities or the coaches. Not only do colleges not have enough money, but it would also defeat the purpose of going to school. If athletes were to start getting paid, it would give people a reason to talk about paying other students in the school. “If we pay the athletes maybe we should also do it for the first violinist in the school orchestra, or the lead actor in theatrical productions, and perhaps popular professors should allocate course enrollment slots to those students who bid the highest" according to Andrew Zimbalist of theatlantic.com. It would also make the cost of college more expensive. The money would have to come from somewhere. That would just make it harder for a regular student to attend a college. According to star.txstate.edu, it would be really unfair to the other students. Some if not all college athletes are already on scholarships, so why should they be paid like they are professionals? Many college athletes argue that since they do not have time to get jobs that they should be paid by the university so that they can have extra money to spend. What they do not realize is that the average college student is middle class and has to pay their way through school. It is not that since they do not play a sport they have money to spend. These students would kill to have their school paid for and all they would have to worry about is their grades.

It would really ruin the culture of college sports. College students love college sports because the athletes are students just like they are. The athletes are in classes and are seen on campus. They are a part of the school's community. Money would separate the athletes from the student body. It would make them seem like they are the most important people at the school.

Another thing is that some athletes do not stay in school the four years to earn their degrees, so they will take up classroom space for one or two years and it is free. Some athletes don't even deserve the education that they are being given. For example, the valedictorian of my high school class really wanted to go to Georgetown. She got in, but tuition was over $75,000 a year, yet there are athletes that go to this school for free and probably do not have the grades to even be there. Former NBA star Allen Iverson who barely graduated high school and will tell you himself that he hated school, got to go to Georgetown for free, and he only stayed for one year.

Forbes.com was also able to bring up some good points. Football and basketball are the two sports that most people think of when it comes to athletes being paid. What about the other sports? Athletes participate in sports like soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, volleyball, track and field. They work just as hard as football and basketball players, but just because they do not generate as much money they have to be treated differently than the people that work out in the same facilities as they do. Even if it were possible for athletes to be paid they should all be paid the same. Some people claim that football and men's basketball should be the only sports to be paid because those are the sports that generate the bulk of the revenue. This would be violating the federal Title IX law. This law stipulates equal compensation for male and female athletes. Besides the issue of paying the participants of every sport, there is also the issue of everyone being paid — should you just pay your elite athletes or the whole team? How much would you pay players? Is it one set amount for every athlete, or will there be pro-like contracts? If you let athletes get paid for endorsements, will it give some programs unfair advantages? If someone plays for a school like Alabama they are more likely to get an endorsement than if they were playing for a school like Tulsa. It is the same issue with allowing profit off merchandise sold with their name or number. Playing for Florida would give a better opportunity to make a profit off of merchandise than playing for Western Michigan.

Also, imagine a coach trying to discipline a college player if they were paid. Even if they know they messed up all they would care about is the money. Paying them would affect their character and it would affect the way they act if they were to go out in the real world and play professionally. College teaches you about life and tells you to be disciplined. It is hard to be disciplined when you are getting paid a lot of money.

One thing that may surprise the reader of this paper is that most colleges, even the big name ones, do not even make the money back that they put into their sports programs. Despite all the tickets, merchandise, and memorabilia that these big name universities sell, they cannot break even. According to theatlantic.com, the average FBS athletic program ran a $9.44 million operating deficit. This brings up the question where would the money come from?

While researching on forbes.com only 14 athletic programs are generating a profit without having to rely on institutional support like student fees. Ohio state university needs over $22 million from the booster club in order to balance. OSU could ask the boosters for money to pay the players, but what would a school like Western Kentucky do? They already spend 5.6 million on grants-in-aid and it takes 8.2 million from the university to balance their budget. How would they pay their players?

One thing that shocked me while I was doing research on thestate.com was that the athletes that are basically impoverished receive a federal supplement every semester. It is called Pell Grant money. Qualified college athletes receive up to $5,645 put in their bank accounts a year. The athlete can choose to spend this money in any way they want. So it is pretty much up to them to be smart with it and not blow it on something stupid. This money is meant to help athletes from impoverished backgrounds live like average students without hardship.

Dawn Staley, the South Carolina women's basketball coach grew up in the Philadelphia projects. She earned a full scholarship to Virginia where she qualified for the maximum amount of Pell Grant money. “Things came up. I didn't have much when I went to school. When you see other people with things, you're a kid, you want them. If you don't have them, you don't feel like you're having the full experience of being in college." Staley's example from two decades ago still applies today. The athletes that need it the most are taken care of through Pell Grants. They do not need the extra money. These grants are distributed based on the annual income of an athlete's family. The lower the income the higher the grant.

Most fans of college sports do not know that the NCAA allows for additional help to athletes through the student athlete opportunity fund. It is intended to provide direct benefits to student athletes or their families as determined by conference officers. Some of the benefits include non-athletics related health expenses that are not covered by an athlete's insurance plan, travel expenses for an athlete to attend funerals or family emergencies, and a $200 annual clothing allowance, as long as Pell Grants are available.

A big reason college athletes should not be paid is simply because they are not professionals. College athletes are people that are trying to get to the pros and therefore, are not paid because they have not made it yet. Since these players are in college, they should never be paid to play their sport. College sports are just like another class. College students pick something that they want to major in so that they can learn and start a career. College sports should be treated the same way. “I am a broadcast journalism major and no one pays me to set up interviews, anchor a show or broadcast on the college radio station, U92 FM. The reason why no one pays me to do any of that is because I am learning my field in order to get paid when I get a job. In college sports you play to get to the pros, not to earn a paycheck as a student." says Josh Cooper of bdlsports.net. What people forget about college athletes is that they are student athletes. The word student comes before athlete. No one in college gets paid to get an A+ or pass an important test. College is a place where you learn to grow up and how to manage your life.

The biggest reason why college athletes should not be paid is that having a scholarship is technically a form of pay. No, the athlete does not get that money to spend on whatever they want, but the most important thing is paid for. The average college student would kill to have their school already paid for. Not only does a college athlete have a chance to go pro in a sport but they have a chance to finish a degree, which can be used if the pros do not go as planned.

While reading an article by John Rocker from wind.com I discovered that college athletes also have the opportunity to meet the boosters of the schools that they play for. A school's boosters club is made up of alumni that give a lot of money to the school. They most likely own their own businesses. This is another job opportunity for an athlete. If the pros do not work out the booster could remember the athlete's buzzer beater against their rival and give them a job.

In closing, there are too many questions that need to be answered and too many issues that would arise from college athletes getting paid. A college athlete has a ton of privileges and opportunities. There is no reason why they should be paid. Their school is free, they have a chance of getting a job if the pros don't work out and there is just not enough money to go around.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube
Cover Image Credit: Post and Courier

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From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P.: Identity Theft

For a lot of athletes, we tend to feel like the sports we play define us. Learn more about the journey in Part two of the "From Student-Athlete to N.A.R.P." series.

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So you're done playing... now what?

When you abruptly stop playing the sport you've played your whole life, something happens. I like to call this, Identity Theft.

This is something that many athletes, including myself, have experienced. Instead of waking up for conditioning at 6 am, you're waking up 15 minutes before class to get ready. You're no longer looking forward to or dreading practice (me) in the evening. Maybe you find that you're no longer "important" on campus. People aren't looking up to you anymore, and maybe you feel like you've just become a number. Some portion of your self-esteem has disappeared, you don't know where you belong anymore, and all of a sudden it's more difficult to make friends.

For some people, being an athlete is their main characteristic about themselves. Maybe even a personality trait, some may argue. Once you stop doing something you used to do everyday, a self-discovery journey is necessary. It's a journey that's for sure, and not a short one.

It's a marathon, not a sprint.

You may struggle to figure out who you are, all over again. It's comparable to recreating yourself. Some retired athletes will continue to thrive in their sport, even if they aren't playing for their school anymore. Some, like me, will go through the days, weeks, and months, not knowing what to do with themselves, or who they even are anymore (I didn't lift a weight or break a sweat for 6 months straight).

Before you know it, you begin to question yourself.

What am I good at? What am I passionate about now? Am I good at anything besides basketball?

These are the questions I asked myself every single day. Tearing my self-confidence down piece by piece because I didn't have the answers. I haven't always been the most social person, that being said, the friends I made were through sports. Teammates, opponents, fans- these were all friends I didn't need to work for. Not only that, I all of a sudden had all of this free time and had no idea what to do with it. Yeah, I could do homework, but that got boring after a while.

So what happens next? For me, it was depression.

Something that once defined you is no longer a part of your life anymore. The one thing that people thought about when they heard your name, is now nonexistent. The best way to describe life after being an athlete in my opinion is Identity Theft, because it almost feels like you've been robbed of a vital quality of yourself. And what's funny is I never thought it would be this way for me, because I never let basketball define me, yet there I was.

I'm here to say this:

Pick yourself up and remember who you are. Being great at that sport you once played was just one of the qualities of the stellar human being you are. You are more than your sport. You do have a purpose and a place in this world, even if you don't know it yet. This journey will be scary, but you'll discover new things about yourself that you didn't even know existed.

Since completing this self-discovery journey, I have learned that I am not as introverted as I thought I was, or at least used to be. I like art, music, and even writing. Never in a million years did I think I'd be writing articles that would be shown to the public. Helping people and learning about people is something I am now passionate about. I look back at my old self and sometimes can't recognize her because things are so different now, but I am grateful for those chapters in my life because they helped mold the person I am today.

I've learned the best life lessons from playing sports my whole life, and that is what should be taken from that whole experience. Very rarely do you end up playing your sport forever- everyone can't be a professional athlete.

Identity theft is a real issue that occurs in retired athletes. It is important that you, the athlete, understand what is going on, as well as the people around you.

This isn't the end of your life, it's truly just the beginning.

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