A year ago, Jimmy Butler was changing teams for the third time in three years. He didn't make the All-Star Game for the first time in four years, and he had developed a reputation as an irritant or a malcontent or a difficult teammate -- or all three.
These days, Joel Embiid tweets as if Butler is the one who got away. The Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves could be watching Butler's Eastern Conference finals run with the Miami Heat and wondering what might have been.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra and Butler's Heat teammates have repeatedly praised his leadership, especially in the bubble. Butler has often said he doesn't pay attention to what is said or written about him, but those close to him know that's not true.
Butler hears what is said, and it has motivated him throughout his rise to basketball stardom.
Here's how Jimmy Butler has been discussed by those who have lived the journey alongside him.
From the night the Bulls drafted him No. 30 overall in 2011, Butler brought a chip on his shoulder with him. The entire course of his basketball life centered around the premise that hard work will take him wherever he wants to go. While he initially struggled to find his place in coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation, Butler had no problem clicking in what was already a tight Bulls locker room.
Early in his Chicago career, the conversation surrounding Butler focused on a hard-nosed role player who was a piece to a larger puzzle, not the focal point of a contender.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman, on draft night 2011: "[Butler] is a guy that's a real fit for us. ... The type of makeup and character he has, I think he'll fit in our locker room and with the culture we're creating."