I read some comments on Twitter the other day that got me thinking about two things.
One is that I need to stay off the internet. The drivel that’s eroding cyberspace these days is mind-numbing.
The second thing I thought of came in response to those who argue whether Jimmy Butler is an NBA superstar. I don’t know why we continue to have these discussions specifically about Butler, but I’d like to state for the record that those who think he isn’t, have no idea what the hell they’re talking about.
These continual ‘Butler’s no superstar’ Tweets got me thinking about the definition of “superstar,” and this was before Butler dropped 47 points against Boston, in Boston, in an elimination game. Those sorts of performances are saved for the greats. If Butler wasn’t a superstar in the minds of his critics beforehand, they sure as hell signed off Twitter shortly afterwards.
I suppose Jimmy Butler’s superstar ranking depends on your own personal definition of the word. To me, “superstar” implies fame more than it does any inherent ability to play. As we’ve seen throughout history, these two don’t always go hand in hand. The Kardashians are superstars, and they have no discernable talent whatsoever.
There is no specific points-per-game parameter that qualifies an NBA player as a superstar but if your average Joe knows your name, you probably qualify. Butler’s might not be the most recognizable name for the fringe fan, despite having played in three major markets: Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami. His 20 points per game average over the last decade obviously wasn’t enough to cement his status. Again, I’m not quite sure why that is.
You can go back to any team Butler has played on over the past decade, except for perhaps Philadelphia, and make the case that Butler was the best player on that team. One could also make the case that Ben Simmons, despite his unwillingness, er… inability to play is also a superstar. We heard Simmons’ name mentioned way more than Butler’s earlier this post-season and the guy didn’t play a lick. One could also make the case that Zion Williamson is an NBA superstar despite having only played 85 games in three seasons.
But not Jimmy Butler?
Jimmy Butler was in a movie. Office Christmas Party, look it up. Jimmy Butler has one of the greatest nicknames of all of sports. They don’t call just anyone Jimmy Buckets. Those nicknames are earned through blood, sweat and clutch performances. Ask any NBAer whether covering Jimmy Butler is a fun night at the office. Jimmy Butler even has his own Michelob Ultra commercial where he sings Hootie and the Blowfish on an airplane. If that doesn’t cater him to more of a white audience, I’m not sure what will. While Butler may have been standoffish or misunderstood in the past, those days are long gone. Jimmy Buckets has become Jimmy Business and is unquestionably a superstar in my book so much so that it confounds me we’re still having these conversations.
Want further proof? Butler is scoring as many points this post-season as Steph Curry but is asked to shoulder considerably more of his team’s scoring load. The second leading scorer on the Miami Heat is Bam Adebayo, who is not really a scorer at all and averaging under 15 points a game. Not only does Steph have Klay Thompson to rely on for 20 a game, but the talk of this post-season has centered around how other Warriors like Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole have stepped their games up. (Note: both are averaging more points a game than Adebayo.)
Butler’s knee is hanging on by a thread these days yet we (and by “we” I mean those not watching him play) continue to question his value.
I’m sure I’m as guilty as the next guy, tossing around the term “superstar” as if it means something, when it doesn’t. Fame is fleeting. You can be a superstar one week and forgotten the next, your fifteen minutes gone in the blink of an eye.
Jimmy Butler has been going to work for 12 NBA seasons and still has people questioning his marketability. Jimmy’s 47-point, Game Six performance just told everyone he’s in a good place and could care less about what others say or think.
That’s superstar status in my book any day of the week.