Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler grew up watching the nearby Houston Rockets, as his favorite player starred for the franchise during Butler’s high school years.
Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat are currently leading the Boston Celtics 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and hope to reach the NBA Finals for the sixth time in franchise history. Butler nearly joined the Houston Rockets prior to the start of the season, but had a last minute change of heart and decided to head to South Beach instead.
But before Butler ever became a star, he was an unheralded prep player coming out of Tomball High School, which sits on the outskirts of Houston. Butler had a successful senior year for the Cougars, as he was a team captain and averaged 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds.
But when he was in the greater Houston area, he developed an admiration for then Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady, who he patterned his game after. Butler said as much during his most recent appearance on the Knuckleheads podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles.
Why Butler was drawn to the Rockets as a youth
“T-Mac, when he was in Houston, was my favorite player. That’s who I modeled my game after in high school. I would shoot just how he would shoot, and wear his sneakers. He was a problem for everybody.”
Butler went to Tyler Junior College immediately after high school and transferred to Marquette, where he played in front of a much bigger stage, and drew the necessary attention to get selected by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Butler was named the Most Improved Player by the time he had reached his fourth season in the league and was named to three consecutive All-Star appearances with the Bulls, while also being named to three All-Defensive teams and an All-NBA team.
Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, prior to the 2017-18 season, where he was reunited with former Houston Rockets assistant and Butler’s former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Butler and the Wolves faced a daunting task of ending the Wolves’ 13-year postseason drought in the highly competitive Western Conference.
The Wolves ultimately returned to the postseason in 2018, as they faced the Houston Rockets in the first round, but fell short within five games. Butler and the Wolves’ front office became at odds during the 2018-19 season, and he was ultimately dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the season.
It was rumored that the Rockets were willing to part with four 1st round draft picks to acquire Butler, but Tom Thibodeau declined the offer. The Rockets also made a run at Butler during the offseason of 2019, but were reportedly left hanging at the altar by the Houston native.
Butler made the All-Star team and the All-NBA Third Team during his first season with the Miami Heat, which is proof that he’s become one of the best players in the league. But it’s worth wondering what his game would have amounted to if it weren’t for Tracy McGrady, who he molded himself after.