When the NBA bubble finally pops and everyone heads home, the player who will be remembered most for breaking through this season is Jimmy Butler.
A five-time All-Star, Butler wasn’t viewed by many as one of the game’s elites, even among his peers, who rated him sixth out of the Eastern Conference frontcourt players on the All-Star ballot in January behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Bam Adebayo and Jayson Tatum. But after leading the dark horse Miami Heat to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2014, Butler has finally received the respect reserved for the league’s superstars.
“One of the best competitors we have in our game,” Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said of Butler earlier this week. “For me personally, I don’t know how many more opportunities I’m going to have, so to be able to go against a fierce competitor like that is something I’ll look back on when I’m done playing.
“I’ll miss those moments.”
Butler has certainly taken advantage of his moment on the NBA’s biggest stage, averaging 27.5 points, 10 assists and 7.8 rebounds in 41.5 minutes per game in his first Finals. Most importantly, he’s been able to do it by being himself in the bubble.