In the summer of 2011, two weeks before the NBA draft, Houston-born college basketball player Jimmy Butler sat down for an interview with ESPN during which he made an emphatic request: “I know you’re going to write something,” Butler told the reporter. “I’m just asking you, don’t write it in a way that makes people feel sorry for me. There’s nothing to feel sorry about. I love what happened to me. It made me who I am.”
If you know anything about Butler’s backstory — raised by a single mother, homeless at the age of 13, not especially distinguished in high school or college — you can appreciate the sentiment. Butler’s life has the makings of a classic inspirational true story, a rags-to-riches tale in which a boy with potential but without promise grows up to become one of the most venerated players in the NBA. But that’s not how he perceives his successes or his misfortunes. Butler fought to get here, and every hardship made him who he is.
After falling to the champion Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals this past May, Butler and the Miami Heat have more to prove than ever. They’re looking to continue building on their recent hot streak, with one goal in mind: to finally close the gap and win the NBA Championship. SHARP spoke with the basketball superstar and long-time TAG Heuer ambassador about his love of ball, his hobbies and pastimes, and his passion for TAG Heuer watches.
You’re coming off an incredibly strong season and a deep postseason run. How do you account for the success?
Reflecting on these past couple of seasons, I’m most proud of just how happy I’ve been. Basketball has brought me a lot of memories throughout my career. But as of late, I find myself smiling a lot because of the game. And it’s not because I’m winning or losing, it’s legitimately because I’m having fun. I love to wake up and train every single day. That fire, that passion, still burns inside of me to get better. And it’s just picked up. I’m in the mix of it right now. But over the last few seasons, I’ve just been incredibly happy with basketball. There’s much more to life than just basketball, but basketball has brought me a lot of joy.
What are your goals for this season?
When you’re talking about goals, and what I want to have accomplished for next year, it’s always going to be winning a championship. It’s always going to be about me knowing the calibre player I am and being able to take my team to the championship, and being able to win it. I think that we have the group of guys to get it done. Yeah, we lost a couple pieces, but I think we’re going to be okay. I know what I have to do. We know what we have to do. Just like last year and every year before that one, this is our year. I do feel like my time is now, more than ever. I am in my prime. I always say I’m confident. I think I’m the best player in the world. I know I’m the best player in the world, and this is my time.
As someone who faced a lot of challenges growing up, how do you see the world differently from others who might come from more privileged backgrounds?
I believe that everybody has their own story. Mine, the way that I grew up, everything that I’ve been through to get me to this point, it’s put me in a position to meet great individuals who continually help me every day and teach me that when times do get hard, don’t give up. You can do anything that you put your mind to. I’m a firm believer in that. I preach that each and every day. And I would say, my past, my present, my future: everything’s been about that. For me, I feel like this goes for anybody, because of who you are and the story that you have. You have something in common with everybody around the world. Talking about something is great, but actually going out there and showing them that you’re about that and that you can do that is even better. And that’s what I just try to do. Everybody used to tell me, “Oh, you can’t do that.” I think people learned their lesson: don’t say what I cannot do. Because I’ll probably do my best to try and do exactly what you say I can’t do. So that’s that, do what they say you can’t.
What’s your daily routine?
If I’m not working out, and if I’m not competing, all my time is with my kids. My pre-game ritual is to drink as much Big Face Coffee as I can, beat whoever’s in front of me in dominoes, now in spades, and probably tennis. I plan on playing a lot of tennis before the games as a brief warm-up. I have to keep my backhand strong.
I understand you’re a wine aficionado. How’d you get into that?
I have been introduced to some of the best wines in the world, and I can’t turn back after that.
How has having a daughter changed the way you see the world?
I just want to be the best dad that I can be. I don’t want my kids to miss out on any part of life. I want to be there to experience life with them: the good, the bad, the indifferent. And that’s what I’m focused on. That’s what I want to be remembered as. Yes, it’s great to be a great basketball player, but man, if I can be the world’s best dad, I’ll wear that t-shirt every single day.
I hear you’re a country music fan. What artists or albums are on repeat these days?
The Heat brought Kyle Lowry into the fold in a way that seemed like a perfect fit. Lowry was beloved by fans in Toronto. How has he been received by the team and the fans in Miami?
Kyle is my guy. A moment from last season when I can say that I pushed myself physically and emotionally is when Kyle Lowry was going through what he was going through, and I felt like it affected me too, because that’s my guy and I loved him to death. So when he hurts, I hurt. It’s a real thing. So we went through that together, we talked about it every single day. We went and visited who we needed to visit, as often as we could. And it taught me a lot about him, and taught me a lot about myself. And more than anything, taught me that this world doesn’t revolve around just myself. So, I might need to be there for everybody else.
When did it become clear that you’d thrive in a leadership role rather than as more of a supporting player?
I do whatever my teammates, coaches, or organization need me to do in order to be a fierce competitor. That’s the reason I do it: to compete, and to gain everybody’s respect. When they go up against me, it’s like, “I don’t know what the outcome’s going to be tonight, but I know going up against Miami Heat 22, I’m going to get his best.”
How did you get involved with TAG Heuer? How has your perception of the brand changed?
TAG Heuer and I share many of the same values. I’ve always been one to say that pressure either makes diamonds or bursts pipes, and TAG Heuer has embodied a “don’t crack under pressure”— mentality for more than 160 years. Overall, TAG Heuer believed in me. They saw something in me that I probably didn’t see in myself, to tell you the truth. But I’m glad that I get to rep their brand. I’m glad that they think I’m the right person to do that job. I love it when people believe in me, because not everybody always has.
NBA tunnels have become one of the best places to see the latest watches. Do you feel any pressure to keep up with your teammates when it comes to watches?
I think right now, more than ever, I would define my style as really not giving a darn, because I’m comfortable with whatever I put on. I just always want to make sure that I have a really nice watch piece more than anything else. I’ll change my hair to however I want to change my hair. I wear whatever shoes that I want to wear. I’m comfortable in my own skin. So as long as I’m being me, I’m happy.
What watches spend the most time on your wrist?
If you were to go on my Instagram on the daily, more often than not, you’ll probably see me wearing the new black TAG Autavia Flyback. I love that watch. And… word on the street is you’ll soon see the Carrera Plasma on my wrist. Plenty of diamonds, which means it’s definitely for me. But like I said earlier, I’m all for one that is like this pressure, either make diamonds or burst pipes. Obviously, TAG Heuer, with this Carrera Plasma, is one for making diamonds. Last but not least, I love the Connected Watch. It does everything. You can wear it whenever you want. Wear it to the gym, in the shower, you can wear it to dinner, you can wear it to sleep, and it lets you know where you have to be on time. It even has my workouts in the sports app. It’s a must-have in today’s world.
Are you interested in the technical side of watches, or are you more about the style?
Definitely the technical side. I was recently able to go to TAG Heuer HQ in Switzerland and see them actually make watches, see their craft, the passion, and the hard work that they put into it. Sitting on the watchmaker’s bench in a lab coat was pretty special.
If you weren’t playing pro basketball, what other careers sound fun to you?
Tennis player or coffee barista.