In 2014, Jimmy Butler said, “I like being a role player. Star has never been next to Jimmy Butler’s name. It never will be. I’ll always be an under-the-radar dawg.”
Then, Butler kept getting better and better. He started to appreciate his stature within the game. He took a leadership role on the Bulls. He embraced celebrity.
Maybe his trade request from the Timberwolves – ideally to the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or L.A. Clippers – is the next step in this evolution.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
He is enamored with the idea of playing a central role in a big market, sources said. Butler had once imagined playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, but LeBron James‘ arrival as the franchise’s cornerstone made it less appealing for Butler in the prime of his career, league sources said.
Playing with LeBron isn’t for everyone. Kawhi Leonard reportedly became more reluctant to join the Lakers once they got LeBron. (Interestingly, Leonard is reportedly dissuaded by the hoopla LeBron would attract while Butler apparently believes he wouldn’t get enough of a spotlight).
And of course, Kyrie Irving requested and received a trade from LeBron’s Cavaliers last year. Irving and Butler are friends, and maybe Irving warned Butler about the perils of playing with LeBron.
I’m not sure how this report fits with Butler wanting to play with Irving, though. Irving is more popular than Butler. Perhaps, Irving holding a smaller stature than LeBron is enough for Butler. Maybe playing with Irving would be the exception to Butler’s desire to have his own team in a big market.
Or maybe Butler still winds up in Los Angeles with LeBron. Butler was reportedly open to it, though that’s a pretty low standard.
No matter what, Butler should pursue what he wants. NBA careers are short. Players should make the most of theirs, whatever that means to them.
Butler has so far shown he can balance working hard and playing well with stardom. He has earned the right to seek a larger public profile without major consternation about what it’d mean to his on-court production.