Chicago Bulls: The Strange Case Of Jimmy Butler

Jan 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) brings the ball up court against the Boston Celtics during the second half at United Center. The Bulls won 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) brings the ball up court against the Boston Celtics during the second half at United Center. The Bulls won 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler was once beloved by media and fans alike, but lately this all seems to have changed.

Jimmy Butler has grown to become the face of the Chicago Bulls franchise. And not everyone sees this as a good thing.

Drafted 30th overall in 2011, the combo guard/forward spent his freshman year at Tyler Junior College in Texas, but was given a scholarship to Marquette the next year. He averaged 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists during his time there and earned All-Big East Honorable Mention honors his last two years of college.

But it was not until talk of his personal life came about that the public started to take interest.

Butler faced tough times as a child, living through what some referred to as “another Blind Side story.” His father left the family when he was just a young boy, and he was kicked out by his mother at the age of 13. He then took to staying with friends, bouncing from one house to another, until finally someone took him in.

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His story ran loud around the league and fans could not wait to see what the rookie had in him. Unfortunately, he came in during a lockout year. And in that shortened season, he averaged only 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds a game.

Thankfully, things changed during his sophomore year. He worked hard during the Summer League to prove his worth, and it paid off: when then teammate Luol Deng was injured, Butler finally made his debut as a starter and scored 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. From then on, he became an integral part of the team. And his fan base grew.

His stardom really took off during the 2014-15 season, when Derrick Rose suffered his third knee injury. Butler took Chicago to the Eastern Conference semifinals and ended up winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He was the first ever Bull to do so and certainly made the franchise proud. The media loved covering him. And the fans loved hearing about him.

Butler had stolen the hearts of Chicagoland.

That summer, everyone breathed a sign of relief when he re-signed with the Bulls on a five-year, $95 million contract.

However, that feeling would not last long.

As the years went by, a new, more confident, boisterous Butler came to life. And the newest version of him is not nearly as well-received.

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The public’s opinion on Butler first changed when he called out head coach Fred Hoiberg. According to Butler, Hoiberg was not coaching the team hard enough. And while he may have been right, speaking on the topic to the media instead of to the coaching staff in private was not something most people condoned.

Then he was criticized for rushing a comeback after falling victim to a knee injury. Comments were made that such behavior was selfish and careless, ultimately hurting the team in the long run.

And it is not just Butler’s basketball-related decisions that have been attacked. Many are now speaking out against his overall temperament, alluding to the fact that fame has gotten to his head.

Recently, Sam Smith revealed that the 26-year-old has a “colossal ego.”

"“He’s really kind of full of himself. He hangs around with Mark Wahlberg, the actor, and lets us know about that a lot. He goes around to premieres or whatever. He announced before the season that he’s the leader of the team and guys are looking around going, ‘What are you talking about?’ It’s a really weird dynamic. He doesn’t like to socialize with the other players. Back in November they had a team bonding thing. They all chartered a bus and went up to wine country for the day. The only one who didn’t go was Jimmy.”"

He also received scrutiny over the way he shows love to fans after paying for a fan’s birthday dinner to say thank you for her continued support.

"“At that point, we had ordered probably five bottles of champagne, four bottles of wine. We had all ordered steaks and every side on the menu. We asked out of curiosity how much it was, and I think it ended up being about $4,000. That’s not much to Jimmy Butler, but it was really nice for him to do. It absolutely made all of our nights. It made my birthday.”"

It seems as though lately (no pun intended), Butler cannot win.

Despite averaging 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists this year, Chicago is still considering putting Butler on the trading block. It is clear that the front office does not appreciate his views on leadership or his new outspoken demeanor. And nothing angers both Gar Forman and John Paxson more than a player who has a voice.

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But the strange part is that Bulls fans also seem to want to trade him. Butler, a once-beloved underdog, has now seemingly acquired a diva-like reputation. Who would have imagined?