If you’ve seen the movie Django, it’s probably easy for you to see the similarities between him and Jimmy Butler based on their appearance. No explanation is needed. If you look at Jamie Foxx and Jimmy Butler side-by-side, other than one being 5-foot-9 and the other being 6-foot-7, you’ll see the similarities in their features. However, there are more similarities between Butler and Foxx’s famous movie character Django that you presumably haven’t even noticed, and following this unlikely season for the Miami Heat, led by Butler, those similarities have stood out more prominently than ever.
If you haven’t watched Django, I suggest you watch the 2.5-hour extravaganza after reading this, but Django, a slave at the Carrucan plantation, was purchased by a dentist, Dr. King Schultz, who was also a bounty hunter. Schultz needed Django’s help with a bounty of two brothers and made a deal to give Django a share of his bounty and his freedom.
It didn’t take long for Django to learn Dr. Schultz’s craft. After a while, he seemed to lead the partnership. He knew the ins-and-outs of a plantation and had more power since he was a free man. With new skills and freedom, Django told Schultz over a campfire that he was separated from his wife, and that he’d like to find her. He did everything in his power to locate and retrieve his wife from the Candyland plantation, and he was successful in his efforts.
I’m not connecting Butler’s situation to slavery, but Jimmy started as an underdog, just like Django did. No one paid much attention to him out of high school, ended up at Tyler Community College in Tyler, TX, and out-performed his competition. Butler ended up at Marquette, another small school that isn’t a college basketball blue-blood and out-performed his competition there as well. The Chicago Bulls didn’t draft him 30th overall in the 2011 draft with the expectation of him becoming who he is today.
After six seasons with the Bulls, Butler bounced around a little bit. He played one season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and to be blunt, his competitiveness was too much for the Timberwolves young core and didn’t resonate well in the locker room.
The next season, the 2018-19 season, Butler joined the already-stacked Philadelphia 76ers and had some of the same problems as he did in Minnesota. His competitiveness was seemingly too intense for fellow stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. After a disappointing season, the Sixers traded Butler to Miami for Josh Richardson, and about 15 months later, Butler’s competitiveness pushed Miami right past their ‘rebuild,’ straight into the NBA Finals.
Through Jimmy’s 13-year journey from a junior college to where he is now with the Miami Heat, one thing has remained consistent: his competitive edge and leadership qualities, just like Django. He’s always appeared a little rough around the edges, just like Django, and rubbed people the wrong way, just like Django, but in the end, he’s playing on the largest stage of basketball as the leader and number one option on his team. This is his redemption story, just like Django rescuing his wife from the Candyland plantation and blowing it up before they left.
“His story is one of the most remarkable I’ve seen in all my years of basketball,” said an NBA GM in 2011. “There were so many times in his life where he was set up to fail. Every time, he overcame just enormous odds. When you talk to him, and he’s hesitant to talk about his life, you just have this feeling that this kid has greatness in him.”
The story this season probably won’t end with Butler dismantling the Lakers entire squad like Django did Candyland, but the two characters, one fictional, one non-fictional, are very closely aligned in their appearance, and more so in their demeanor, story, and personality.