How Jimmy Butler Plans On Bringing The Heat To Miami

Jimmy Butler
WATCH: Hublot

Photo Credit: Darryl Omar
Photography by Darryl Omar

Styling by Khalilah Beavers 

Grooming by Jose Cruz 

Shot on location at One Thousand Museum Miami 

Miamians, we have an important piece of advice for you: never, ever turn your back on Jimmy Butler. The Heat’s great new hope has a competitive streak a mile wide, and he’ll do just about anything to win.

We discover this the hard way on a sunny afternoon in London, where the 30-year-old NBA star has been based for most of the summer. He taps us on the arm—lightning-quick—proclaiming, “Teal sun bug, no-hit backs!”

Butler had literally been in the midst of explaining his compulsion to turn everything into a competition, and now that he has kicked our butt playing a very unexpected game of punch buggy, we believe him. Well played, sir, well played.

“I hate to f***ing lose with a passion—at anything,” he declares. “I can never say that anybody is better than me at anything. It doesn’t register in my mind,” he admits, before declaring, “Winning is everything.”

He isn’t being hyperbolic: this is the core of Jimmy Butler—his raison d’être—and good luck to anyone who stands in his way. It was nice knowing you.

Winning usurps everything, including relationships. He recalls a recent conversation he had about his life, noting that his response was, “Look, I don’t have a problem with relationships, but winning is damn near everything to me. If I lose, I have a problem, and you have to realize that I have a problem whenever I lose, so you have to learn to leave me alone. I don’t want to be talked to; I don’t want to eat; I want to figure out why we lost and how we can fix it. I know it sounds stupid, but to me, winning is more important than breathing.”

We’re curious: has he always been this way? Because, you know, breathing is kind of important.

“I have always been a fierce competitor, but I haven’t always been like this,” he assures us. “Losing [hasn’t] always bothered me as much as it does now. I realized that I worked so hard to be one of the best at something, and when you put all of that time in, it hurts to f***ing lose. You did all that for no f***ing reason—that’s the part that gets me. If I wanted to lose, I just wouldn’t do [anything]. I’d sit around and just go on vacation 24 hours a day.”

We kind of get it. Despite being a highly celebrated player—a four-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA All-Defensive Team honoree and two-time All-NBA Team honoree—a championship win has eluded him since being drafted by the Chicago Bulls as the 30th overall pick in 2011.

Jimmy Butler
SUIT: Dior
BOOTS: DSquared2 NECKLACES: Jimmy’s own

Photo Credit: Darryl Omar

And so, he trains to be a lean, mean, winning machine. He watches endless sporting events, picking up footwork tips from soccer players and learning about upper body strength from baseball players. He does yoga and Pilates. And, now, he has a new addiction: Padel tennis.

It began when Butler’s trainer, James Scott, looked to create a workout that would keep him engaged and not bore him—no easy feat. “Padel tennis came into [my life] because I like to compete,” he confides. “I study it. I go on YouTube. I read the rules so I can try to catch somebody cheating [in order to] get a point. I’m trying everything to win; it’s that serious to me. I play two to three hours a day. I just ordered all new gear, the stuff that the pros wear. I need it! It’s my newfound obsession.”

When we laugh, he insists, “I mean it, though! People [say], ‘Something’s wrong with you.’ My guys will be like, ‘You’ve got to get up early; go to sleep.’ [He needs a full nine hours of beauty rest.] And I’m like, ‘I’ve got 21 more minutes to watch a video of the pros playing Padel tennis; I’ve got to figure out how to be hitting the ball.’”

He continues, “Because I don’t like to lose, that’s what I do in my spare time—I study everything: my new teammates, how I can be better, how I can help my new teammates be better, what they’re good at, what they’re not so good at. I’m talking to all of the coaches about the plays that we’re running so I can get ahead of the game. This is new to me, as we all know.”

What’s “new” is his four-year, $142 million max contract that he signed in July after joining the Heat in a sign and trade deal that shuffled Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers, Josh Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers, Maurice Harkless and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers and Meyers Leonard to the Heat.

His first year of free agency created quite a stir in the NBA community—especially because his former team, the 76ers, reportedly offered him a massive deal to stay (a topic on which he, in turn, is staying mum). Although it was difficult to leave Philly, Butler insists it was the right choice for him.

Yeah, it was hard. Me and the players were cool, and the people they have in their organization are top-notch—some really good people that I still talk to. Good people in today’s world are so hard to come by. You don’t find them that often, but there are a lot of them in Philly. It was a family affair over there, for real.”

Although he knew it was the time to go, he swears he didn’t have a specific team in mind, a grandmaster plan or a ruthless agenda; he says he truly didn’t know where he was going to land.

“When people would ask me ‘Where are you going to sign?’ I legit did not know. Things change from day to day and even hour to hour, depending on where this guy goes, where that guy goes. I was part of a sign and trade, and that matters. All that stuff is key to where I was going, and if we could make this happen.”

Jimmy Butler
SUIT: Alexander McQueen
BOOTS: Aquatalia NECKLACE: Monisha Melwani
WATCH: Hublot
RING: Cartier (Jimmy’s own)

Photo Credit: Darryl Omar

It was not, as some have suggested, because Butler wanted to be the biggest star on the team. “I don’t think that matters as much nowadays. One player is not going to win the whole thing for you anyway—you need to have other key pieces—and I know we’re going to continue to build. [Also], I don’t want it to come down to me against the world; that’s not how the game of basketball is played now or [how it] has ever been played.” He adds, “I would say that I’m in a good position, but I don’t want [people] to ever say, ‘This is his team; he’s the star on the team.’”

In addition to being a good friend, Wade’s distinction as Miami’s all-time leader in points, games, assists, steals, shots made and shots taken also made him a prime source of intel—and perhaps competition, as well. “He told me, ‘Be ready to work,’ and that’s all I needed to hear,” Butler says. “I [already] do that every day. I live for the work. I didn’t get here because I was the most talented or the best shooter or the fastest or the strongest… I got here because I work hard, and I’m semi-tough. That’s what I bring to the table.”

He also brings a very crucial element to any strong team: that deep-seated desire to win. It’s why he doesn’t shy away from confrontation and why he’ll always speak his mind for the greater good of the team. “You can’t take [every criticism] personally because, when you realize that we’ve all got the same agenda in winning, you should be able to say what you think. It may cause an altercation, but [I’ll say what needs to be said] because I want to win. The same thing goes for my teammates. If I’m doing something wrong, by all means, tell me, because if you don’t, how am I supposed to know that I’m doing anything wrong? How am I supposed to fix something? As long as it’s about winning, I’m all for it.”

The phrase ‘You’ve come a long way, baby’ definitely applies to Jimmy Butler. The Jimmy of today—sitting across from us at the chic Hari hotel in Belgravia with the beginnings of a British accent (“I’m starting to speak like they speak in London, I’ve been over here so long—the honeys love it!”). With a closet full of Stella McCartney, Chanel and Alexander McQueen, who knows his Sassicaia from his Masseto—the Renaissance man sitting across from us is vastly different from the kid growing up in a broken home in Tomball, Texas, who came into the NBA straight out of Marquette, guns blazing, wearing chaps and fringed Western wear. 

“When I came into the league, I thought I was a cowboy,” he admits (though he quickly shouts out an emphatic, “Hell no!” to our question about riding horses… go figure). “I wore cowboy boots, Wrangler belts, all of that good stuff. Now, I wear shirts that fit me a little too well, probably, pants that fit me too well. I think Stella McCartney has me looking real natty-esque. Stella be doing it—that is a fact. But when I was a rookie in the league, I didn’t make as much money as I do now, and the cowboy stuff is a lot cheaper than the designer brands I’ve got going on.” 

He’s not ashamed of the person he was by any stretch of the imagination—or what he wore, for that matter. Not that this should surprise anyone, even a little bit, but he’s got bigger fish to fry (like a championship ring).

“I don’t give two f***s what anybody says,” he declares, true to form. “At the end of the day, I just do me. So if I want to go back to being a cowboy, I’ll do that. I’ll whip out some gear from my Johnny Cash days. But I’ve always been one to be comfortable in my own skin, and I wear what I want to wear.”

It’s rare to speak to someone who knows themselves so well, who doesn’t need adulation or praise—just a win. And Butler is understandably proud of his complete 180-degree transformation.

“Have I changed? Without a doubt in my mind,” he states. “[I love that] I learn something new every day about myself—that’s the best. As I’m getting older, my views on life change. The reason that I do things change, the way that I do things, the way that I think about things, the food that I like. My life is constantly changing.”

Jimmy Butler
JACKET + SHIRT: Louis Vuitton
PANTS: Stella McCartney
WATCH: Hublot
EARRINGS: Jimmy’s own

Photo Credit: Darryl Omar

Butler adds, “I love it when people tell me I’ve changed. I’m like, ‘Yes, thank you!’ That’s a compliment to me. I don’t want to be that same individual, that boring person. I’ve seen too much and been too many places. I have changed—for the better. I would say that that’s the best part of my life: I’m figuring more and more out about myself every single day.”

He looks at it this way: “Some people don’t really get the picture, but you give it to them anyway. You may not understand why I do what I do or who I am, but that’s what you’re going to get, so you’ve got to deal with it. It’s like a piece of art—and I’m not saying I’m a piece of art. What I’m saying is that some people don’t understand a Picasso, but you have to take the damn Picasso anyway because it’s a Picasso. I think I’m that way. You may not understand me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to change. A Picasso is going to stay a Picasso. But seriously, I’m not a Picasso—I’m more like a Banksy!”

He warns against buying into too much of his social media hype—travel might have changed him and shaped him, but the exotic experiences he posts on his Instagram page aren’t the sum of his parts. Rather, they are merely an extremely curated look into his A-list life. “I do travel, and I do have a lot of fun, but my Instagram [shows] the life that I want you to see—it’s not what I do all the time. You wouldn’t know that whenever I travel to those places, I take my trainers with me; I take all the people that work on my body—and all their families—with me. It’s a real family vibe. And I work! You only see me doing the samba lessons, surfing, in a helicopter, because that’s what I allow you to see. Every now and again, I sprinkle [into my posts, elements of] me working.”

He professes, “That’s what social media is—‘Look at how he’s doing stuff.’ In reality, that’s not [my life]. I wake up, work my ass off, I’m tired as s**t half the time. Then I drink some coffee [and] I do all of those activities because where I come from, this was never in the deck of cards. Now that it’s there, I’m playing my hand to the best of my abilities.”

But what do the cards hold? That still remains to be seen… though he does have a very certain future when it comes to his post-NBA career. “I’m opening my own winery, for sure. I was thinking about doing it in Bordeaux until they told me the prices of the land and I was like, ‘OK—count me out of Bordeaux!’ I’ve either got some chips to stack or I’ve got to figure out something else.”

Drinking wine is a favorite pastime for Butler—never liquor, although he’s abstaining from everything at the moment to prep for the season—and he has one hard and fast rule. “I’ll sit there and talk to whoever about whatever as long as it’s not about f**king basketball. I never want to talk about f**king basketball. Please!” Especially when he’s imbibing.

Still, it’s understandable. During the week, he eats, sleeps and breathes basketball, from the moment he wakes up at 4 a.m. to the moment he goes to bed at 7:30 p.m. Every activity, every meal, is conditioned to make him a harder, better, faster, stronger player. He does cryotherapy and core work five days a week. Friday—at least in the summertime—is for play.

Jimmy Butler
SUIT: Alexander McQueen
NECKLACE: Monisha Melwani
RING: Cartier (Jimmy’s own)

Photo Credit: Darryl Omar

But that’s about to change come September. There will be no more trips to Paris or wine-drinking in Venice, at least for a while. Jimmy Butler is getting ready to prove himself to Miami, on and off the court, and the only exploring he’ll be doing is in his new city.

“Miami isn’t just South Beach,” he states. “I’m excited to meet the locals, see how they live. I want to play dominoes in Little Havana. I like to go off the beaten path,” he says.

This, in itself—the excitement of exploring a place he’s happy to call home—is a big personal win. There’s sweet success in “knowing that [I] get to wake up and see the sun, and knowing that I’m still going to have the people around me that I’ve always had around me. I love, love, love my people and would do anything for them. That’s my thing: being able to do good things with and for my people. That’s why I’m so excited to be able to do stuff in Miami, in this city—because whether they like it or not, they’re going to be my people.”

And Jimmy Butler intends to give his people a big gift in the 2019-2020 season. “Right now, my job is just to hoop, to work hard and help us win as many games as possible. Starting October 23, I will do that. It’s only a matter of time before I show everybody that I’m for real, that this was a good move for me.”

Sounds like a winning play already.