MANILA, Philippines – When you play for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA, the most obvious thing you’ll have to deal with is knowing you’re playing for the same team that had arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.
Now, if you’re more than just another player in the Bulls roster – say, for instance, the franchise player, which is what Jimmy Butler is today for Chicago – that shadow of MJ looms larger, along with the memories of other former greats who played in the Windy City. Take Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman, for example.
But Butler, 27, who’s enjoying his best campaign as a pro this season, isn’t concerned with any of that. A kid who rose from humble beginnings to become an All-Star and household name in the NBA, the Houston, Texas native is focused on something more important to him: completing his own adventure.
“Nope, not at all. No pressure on me and I damn sure would never compare myself to Michael Jordan. So I don’t think that’s the way to go about anything,” Butler said when asked if the glory days of Jordan with the Bulls is pressure for him to deliver a title to Chicago.
“I think that I just go one day at a time and see where today gets me and hope that, you know, hope for tomorrow. But as of right now, I can only focus on the task at hand and of course, yes, I want to win a championship here for this city and we’re very capable of doing so. But if we look too far ahead, we’re going to get lost for right now.”
Jordan, whose name is known worldwide beyond just basketball, has a near-flawless resume. After getting selected third overall in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Bulls, he won 5 league MVP awards, made 14 All-Star teams, 10 All-NBA First Teams, won a Defensive Player of the Year Award, and most significantly, went 6-for-6 in the NBA finals to attain 6 championship rings, winning Finals MVP each time as well.
Butler is right. You can’t compare him to Jordan. But truth be told, anyone who gets compared to Jordan is bound to come up short – just ask LeBron James.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Butler can’t create a legacy worth remembering himself. He’s in the prime of his career this NBA season, averaging 24.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists a game while maintaining his reputation as one of the league’s most ferocious defenders.
Is he as good as Jordan? No. But he’s also the best player the Bulls have had since MJ called it a career.
“I think I want to lead my own legacy. I want to be known for me winning games, not just being in the same organization as Scottie Pippen, as Michael Jordan, as Dennis Rodman, as all those guys,” Butler said.
“I have my own legacy and story that I’m trying to write. So, yeah, obviously, the goal, the reason you play this game is to win. So obviously, I would like to do that. But I’m not living in the MJ shadow. I’m trying to be the best version of myself that I can be.”
While Butler has been one of the best players in the NBA a quarter into the regular season, the same cannot be said for his Bulls, who after losing to the Wizards, 107-97, on Thursday, December 22, dropped to 3-7 in their last 10 games and fell to 14-14, good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Chicago has been playing inconsistent and which Bulls team shows up to each game is so unpredictable that it must be maddening for the team’s fans. They’ve already secured big wins this season against clubs like Boston, Utah, Cleveland, and San Antonio, but have also lost to teams like Denver, Dallas, Minnesota, and the Lakers.
It’s safe to say that Chicago rises up against tougher competition, but also plays down to its opponents every now and then.
“I couldn’t tell you the reason on why we win some and lose some. Some games, we come out flat, not ready to play. You know, say what you want to say, but I think it happens at times, man,” Butler said.
“Sometimes you’re not making shots. Things aren’t going the way you want it to. You put your head down, feel sorry for yourself.”
New look Bulls
The main core of this year’s Bulls team is demonstrably different from last year’s squad which failed to make the playoffs. Gone are Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, the hometown hero and former MVP who was shipped off to the Knicks. In are Rajon Rondo, a pass-first point guard, and Dwyane Wade, a 34-year-old veteran who’s arguably one of the 3 greatest shooting guards in NBA history.
Aside from the Kevin Durant-to-Golden State move during the 2016 NBA free agency, Wade’s decision to leave the only team he played for – the Miami Heat – to come to his hometown of Chicago was the most shocking development of the summer.
Beyond the experience of winning 3 championships and the countless other battles he’s been in that Wade brings to a relatively young Bulls roster, 14-year veteran also provides a steady presence in the locker room.
“I think with him, he just knows how to win. He knows what it takes to win a championship. He’s done it and he’s always, you know, in the gym, taking care of his body. So, you know, myself, the young guys we’re paying attention to it because that’s how you get to play as many years as he’s played and be the type of player that he’s been. It’s because he’s constantly working every single day, even when he’s not on the basketball court,” Butler said about his new teammate, who like him also played college basketball for Marquette.
“Everybody knows him for the person and the basketball player that he is, but off the floor, just a human being and the love that he gives to everybody, man. That’s what makes Dwayne Wade, Dwayne Wade,” Butler later added.
It’s pretty clear that Butler’s relationship with the team’s designated veteran is in a good place. For now, both will have to work on getting the Bulls to play at a higher and more consistent level.
And then maybe after that, Butler can add to the legacy he’s trying to build. – Rappler.com