Gone but not forgotten: Jimmy Butler returns to Chicago with more than basketball in mind


By Evan Brooks
Medill Reports

For Jimmy Butler, moving on has become pretty common in his NBA career.  Butler has packed bags and said goodbyes three times already, moving on from the Bulls to the Timberwolves to the Philadelphia 76ers. One goodbye he will never say is to the city that embraced him from Day One: Chicago, Illinois.

Butler was the last pick of the first round in the 2011 draft by the Chicago Bulls. He spent six seasons there before his eventual exit, giving Bulls fans memorable moments on the court. What was even more impressive was the work Butler was doing off the court around the city of Chicago.

Butler frequently spent time with the local mentoring organization Youth Guidance, and in addition to giving generous donations, he spent quality time with their students involved in the Becoming A Man (BAM) program. He discussed life lessons and ways to improve as an overall human being by giving motivational speeches. Despite moving on from the Bulls in 2017, Butler recently joined the BAM national advisory council.

“This city has done a lot for me and to me kids are so important and I love this city so every time I come back I try to give as much as I can to them,” Butler said. “Just knowing when you have a professional athlete that’s there and that you can see their face and that their doing so many different things with them it means the world to those kids and it means the world to those kids and it’s definitely pointing them in the right direction.”

Butler also provided meals regularly to homeless citizens through the Pacific Garden Mission.

“He would call us up and say that he wanted to do a pizza giveaway for everyone, but he didn’t want the media involved,” said Phil Kwiatkowski, president of Pacific Garden Mission. “He would come himself and personally give out the pizzas. The fact that he came down spoke volumes.”

Bulter’s constant passion for the Chicago community landed him the NBA Cares Community assist award during the month of April in adding to being a finalist for the season award during the 2016-17 campaign his final in a Bulls jersey.

“The whole city of Chicago was devastated when he moved on,” Kwiatkowski said. “Jimmy was a class act and very kind to us so it was extremely sad to see him go.”

Butlers reputation as hard-nosed and demanding player is well documented. And his passion and desire to win has always been apparent no matter what team he suited up with.

“Jimmy was a great guy and a hard worker,” said Matt Yob, the director of media relations for the Bulls. “I never heard about any bashing of his teammates only encouragement and the will to win.”

Buler’s physical being may be in another jersey, but his heart and dedication for the community of Chicago no matter where he plays speaks just as loud as his play on the court.

“I got a lot of love for this city and I’m so fortunate that this city still has a lot of love for me.”

Photo at top: Jimmy Butler answers questions at NBA All-Star media day. (Evan Brooks/MEDILL)