Bulls' Butler motivates Lisle campers with story of basketball success
When Jimmy Butler started playing basketball, he was, in his own words, "tiny" and "terrible."
Now, he's the Bulls' projected starting 2-guard ready to join Derrick Rose and company for a season fans have reason to be excited about.
The 23-year-old Butler shared a few stories from his basketball journey so far with about 100 campers Friday at the Bulls/Sox Academy in Lisle on the final day of a weeklong camp that also featured appearances by backup center Nazr Mohammed, backup guard Marquis Teague and former Bulls Randy Brown and Sidney Green.
Among the thoughts he shared: guarding LeBron James is nearly impossible; being selfish is as bad in basketball as it is in life; and even pros get their shots blocked.
Butler told campers, coaches and family members he's right where he wants to be with the Bulls, an organization he said is filled with great people who make it easy to be successful.
After picking up basketball in seventh grade to avoid playing football outside in the Texas heat, Butler said he's made it this far thanks mainly to hard work and gym time.
"The one thing that I've learned from all of this is dreams do come true," Butler said. "When I was your age, I had this dream of becoming a professional football player and then I switched, I wanted to be a professional basketball player. And I feel like I worked so incredibly hard. I was constantly in the gym."
That gym time — and a couple growth spurts — transformed Butler from the 5-foot 5-inch middle schooler who was "terrible" at the game, to a star in high school, junior college, Marquette University and now a 6-foot-7-inch likely starter in the NBA.
"As soon as I got done with my homework, as soon as I got done with school, I always wanted a basketball in my hands," Butler said.
Larry Stewart, general manager of basketball operations for Bulls/Sox Academy, prompted Butler to share a summer day in the life of a professional athlete as motivation for campers finishing a week of six-hour days on the court.
His day begins far too early at 7 a.m., Butler said, with a jog before breakfast and then tempo runs at the Berto Center in Deerfield. Next comes at least an hour and a half of court time and a weight room session, then recovery in either a hot tub or cold tub and food. He fits in a nap each day, then studies game film and eats dinner before waking up too early to do it all again.
"I feel like that's what my job is right now — perfecting what I do so I'm not nervous, so I have the utmost confidence every time I take the court," he said.
Butler had many fans among campers, some of whom wore T-shirts or jerseys with his number, 21. And he spent more than an hour after his talk posing for photos, signing autographs and making funny faces with an excited group of young players like 12-year-old Michael Yario of Lemont, who's hoping for a Butler appearance in next year's NBA All Star game, and 12-year-old Justice Bathas of Naperville.
"They all said school comes first and how much effort they put into it," Justice said about Butler and the other players campers met this week. "And follow your dreams. Never give up."
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