Heat Star Talks Leadership and Playoffs

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Shot on location at ZZ’s Club, Miami

Jimmy Butler is everywhere these days.

There he is at the US Open, serving as an honorary ball boy for an exhibition match between Carlos Alcaraz and Frances Tiafoe. There he is in the new music video for Fall Out Boy’s “So Much (For) Stardust,” sporting his now-legendary “Emo Jimmy” look. There he is in ads for Hulu, Alo, State Farm and Hotels.com. There he is sampling products for BIGFACE, his budding coffee brand, and at the first-ever Reserve Cup, a padel competition that he helped bring to Miami. There he is at the Kaseya Center, soaring for lobs and knocking down threes.

And here he is at ZZ’s Club Miami, singing and dancing along to Lloyd’s “You,” breathing energy into the club’s swanky sports bar. He is, after all, five cups of coffee in, and it’s just 2:30 p.m. (he drinks 10-12 cups a day, by the way). A wide-ranging playlist booms through a handheld speaker—everything from “Let Me Love You” by Mario to “Jamming” by Bob Marley & the Wailers to “Loop Hole” by Tee Grizzley featuring 21 Savage. In between posing for photos, the Heat star snacks on sushi and sips an old fashioned.

Welcome to Jimmy Butler’s SLAM cover shoot, and welcome, more broadly, to his ever-growing universe, where you’re invited—err, encouraged—to be your authentic self at all times. To follow whatever passions you may have.

SLAM 249 featuring Jimmy Butler is available now. Shop here.

Butler is a man of many interests: coffee, wine, country music, tennis, padel, soccer (which he calls football), dominoes, spades, UNO, traveling—the list goes on. He is always up to something, always surrounded by family and friends. His house in Miami doesn’t even have TVs. Instead of binge-watching shows, Butler does things like chase tennis balls around Louis Armstrong Stadium in Queens, NY, because, well, it’s fun and he felt like doing it. He is currently working on his own country album; right now, it features 62 songs (!) and Butler, who has played a DJ Khaled-like role, is debating whether to hop on one.

“He loves to get into a whole bunch of stuff that you wouldn’t think he would enjoy doing,” says Butler’s teammate Caleb Martin. “He’s just super active, man, whether he’s doing something on an off day or meeting up with certain types of artists or playing dominoes or going to tennis matches. He’s definitely a dude full of surprises.”

Surprises like…starring in that aforementioned Fall Out Boy video in an all-purple cowboy outfit. 

“Anything to shake up anything on the internet and continually be myself, be happy and love my life and what I’m doing, I’m down,” Butler says. The video was shot over All-Star break and it dropped less than two weeks later. And yes, it shook up the internet.

Butler strikes a difficult balance: he doesn’t take life too seriously, but he is also extremely competitive. He cracks jokes, but often leaves people wondering…was that really a joke? 

“Don’t be fooled because you see me on TV or a commercial or a billboard, I do a lot of the same stuff y’all do,” he says, before adding with a grin, “I’m probably just better at it than all y’all…but I can’t help that.”

The truth (and irony) is, Butler engages in many extracurricular activities, such as tennis and songwriting, “to humble” himself. He wants to experience firsthand the challenges of other professions. Of course, he is also certain that if he keeps working at something, he will excel at it. He has a burning desire to be the best at everything he does. 

To win at everything he does. 

Take spades, for example. The Heat like to play on the team plane during long road trips. “When I say he does not lose, he does not lose,” forward Jamal Cain says. “Me and Haywood Highsmith beat him once and he was kind of shitty after that. I kind of saw it in his face. He’s very competitive. He does not like to lose.”

Or take dominoes, which might be the game Jimmy is best at (including the one he’s famous for). “He’s a top-five, top-10 dominoes player in the world,” claims Chris Brickley, Butler’s trainer. “I know this because he and [Colombian singer] J Balvin have flown in the top dominoes players in the world, like, world champions. And he’s beat them.”

“That’s some Jimmy shit,” Martin remarks with a laugh. He and his twin brother, Cody, are a rare duo that have actually beat Jimmy in dominoes. “And we ain’t played since,” Martin says. “On and off the court, he doesn’t like to lose. He’s ducking me, for sure. Ever since we played him, he tells me and my brother, ‘Y’all are The Funky Brothers.’ Me and Cody play funky, so it messes him up.”

Butler brings that same competitive mindset to his brand, BIGFACE, which he is very dedicated to building. Along with the BIGFACE team, he has visited Colombia and Ecuador on a quest to find the best coffee. He is even trying to master latte art and how to make the perfect cappuccino. 

“People can see this on the court as well—his dedication to something and to knowing everything there is to know about it translates from basketball to coffee,” says Britt Berg, Chief Operating Officer at BIGFACE. She and Butler text about coffee almost every day. 

BIGFACE is set to open its first brick-and-mortar shop in Miami later this year, a milestone that Jimmy is eagerly awaiting. “When I’m not practicing, when I’m not with my kids, when I’m not in a game, I can tell you where I’m gonna be, and that’s in this coffee shop, meeting all the fans of myself and of coffee,” he says. “Because I do love coffee, I do want to bring the best coffee to Miami. I don’t think there’s a spot like that here yet, and I want the first BIGFACE café to be that, so that’s where I’m gonna be. And we need that. Miami needs that…along with a championship!”

Ah, yes. We should probably talk a bit about basketball. It’s mid-March when we shoot this cover—or, as Butler calls it, “that time.”

Allow him to elaborate: “It’s the time where people really gotta think about going up against the Miami Heat and myself. I know what I’m capable of. I know what my squad is capable of. And don’t nobody want to see us in a seven-game series anyways. We know that.”

We do.

Miami finished eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 46-36 record. But, then again, the Heat entered last year’s playoffs as the No. 8 seed before going on an epic run to the Finals. In 2019-20, the League’s bubble season, Miami reached the Finals as the No. 5 seed.

“Nobody can tell you anything right now,” Jimmy says. “There are three things that you gotta have in order to win a championship: you’ve gotta be playing your best basketball at the right time, you gotta be healthy, and you gotta be lucky. That’s just the way that it is. So can’t nobody tell right now who’s going to have all three of those things.”

Butler quietly had another stellar year, posting 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game and shooting a career-high 41.4 percent from behind the arc. Don’t expect him to be launching more threes in the postseason, though. “I just don’t like shooting threes because I want to run into you,” he says. “I want to hit somebody. You can’t hit nobody if you shoot threes. I want to see who’s going to quit first. I’m gonna keep running in there, I’m gonna hit you, and I’m gonna hit you again, and I’m gonna hit you again, and we’re gonna see who’s gonna quit.”

That sounds like something the fabled and fearless “Playoff Jimmy” would say, doesn’t it? Only thing is, Butler continues to deny that Playoff Jimmy exists. 

“That’s not a thing for the hundredth time,” he insists. “Playoff Jimmy is not a thing. Emo Jimmy, thing. Football Jimmy, thing. Tennis Jimmy, thing. Daddy Jimmy, thing. Zaddy Jimmy, thing. But Playoff Jimmy, not so much.”

OK, fair enough. But worth noting: over a four-season stretch, Butler has led Miami to the Eastern Conference Finals three times and to the Finals twice, averaging 24.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals through 64 playoff games. During the 2020 Finals, he registered two triple-doubles, including just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. In Game 6 of the 2022 ECF, he hung 47 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals on the Celtics to force a Game 7 (one of four 40-plus-point performances he had that postseason). He set a franchise playoff record with 56 points in Game 4 of last season’s first-round series against the top-seeded Bucks, then followed it up with 42 points in Game 5 as his team pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever. 

Butler will admit that things “ramp up a notch” this time of year. Amid the last few weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs, he and Brickley start working out the night before every single game. They study the defense Miami is about to face and try to replicate the exact situations Butler will find himself in. What spots on the floor will be open? What shots will be available? What switches might occur? Butler’s basketball IQ is “probably the highest IQ out of any player I’ve worked with,” says Brickley.

Martin, who has been with the Heat since 2021, notices a “mental shift” in Jimmy as the playoffs loom. “I think him having the experience of going through this phase so many times, he knows how to time stuff up with his body, and then [there’s] the mental part of it, too, him just being so steady mentally,” Martin explains. “He’s very strategic. He knows when it’s time to ramp up. He knows what games probably hurt more than others or whatever the case is. Everything he does, he thinks about.”

The added reps in the gym help, as does Butler’s very calculated approach. But if there’s one reason to believe Playoff Jimmy is real, and that other teams should fear his impending arrival, it’s this: Jimmy Butler is fully confident in who he is and what he’s capable of. There’s a comfort in that, a peace. Any feelings of self-doubt and pressure are gone. He doesn’t care one bit what others think about him—what others predict he and his team will or won’t do.

That type of confidence has a way of rubbing off on the people around him: friends, colleagues, teammates. 

“When you have a leader like that, it gives you a sense of confidence in your abilities and what you’re doing,” says Berg.

“The first thing I noticed with Jimmy, he’s very comfortable being in his skin. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him,” Cain adds. “Seeing how he carried himself and how confident and comfortable he was in his skin only made me more comfortable being who I am.”

Cain remembers one game day when he and other members of the Heat huddled up to pray before taking the court, as was their ritual, and requested that Jimmy turn down the music he was blasting. “Y’all need to be praying to me!” Butler responded. “He said it in a joking manner, but just the fact that that was the first thing on his mind, I was like, Wow, this is Jimmy in a nutshell,” Cain recalls with a chuckle.

It’s no coincidence that Butler describes the Heat as being “overly confident in a good way.” In large part, that identity stems from him. Despite the ups and downs of the regular season, Butler has no doubt that his team has what it takes to make another deep playoff run. 

Why? 

“We just have a different way of going about things,” he says. “Our coaching staff cares and they’re constantly studying how we can make everybody on our roster stick to their strong suits and stay away from the weak points of their games. Ownership cares—they’re at every practice, they’re on the plane. We’re talking to one another. We really fuck with one another, which is a good thing. And, um…” 

He pauses for a moment and flashes a sly smile. 

“I’m on the team. So, I’m taking my chances every time.” 


Portraits by Alex Subers





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