Two Paths to Success

Eva Smith, Sentry Reporter

Lebron James and Jimmy Butler were the faces of the 2020 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals. After the six-game series, the Los Angeles Lakers came out on top, leaving James with a fourth championship and Butler with none. Jimmy Butler has been a successful player with problems in the locker room and an inspiring backstory. Lebron James is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players that has ever played the game. His success did not start in the NBA, though. 

James attended St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, where he was picked for the USA Today All-USA First Team as a sophomore and his team won a state championship. Successful throughout high school, he decided to declare for the NBA Draft in 2003.

He went on to get picked first overall by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and won Rookie of the Year at the end of his first season. He won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 2009 and 2010. After successful seasons with the Cavaliers, but no championship, James, shocking the NBA, decided to take his talents to the Miami Heat in 2010. After winning back-to-back championships and losing two with the Heat, he returned to Cleveland. He attended four consecutive championships, winning one of them in 2016. After losing to the Golden State Warriors in 2018 for the second consecutive time, Lebron decided he would be moving to the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2018-2019 season. After a disappointing season in 2019, James and the Lakers rebounded, capturing the 2020 NBA Finals Championship. 

No one can deny that James is a talented and successful basketball player, and even if you do not like him, you can respect him; but is that the same for Jimmy Butler?

Before Butler’s basketball career, he had a tough home life. His father left his family when he was young and his mother kicked him out of the house at about age 13. Butler stayed in different homes throughout his high school career and finally found a stable home during his senior year. He still managed to have a successful high school basketball career, but was not on many colleges’ radars. He attended Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas for a year before he was noticed by Division I colleges and got an athletic scholarship to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After his three successful years at Marquette, he entered the NBA Draft and was picked 30th overall by the Chicago Bulls, an amazing feat after a rough start. 

He improved throughout his years with the Bulls and, in 2015, won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. In 2017, Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. After a playoff loss with the Timberwolves in the first round against the Houston Rockets, Butler requested a trade. By the beginning of the 2018-2019 season no trade had occurred and Butler played very few games until he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in November 2018. The messy ending with the Timberwolves started conversations about Butler’s personality and compatibility with teams after being traded for a second time.  

Butler had a successful season with the 76ers, losing to the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the playoffs. After eight seasons in the NBA, Butler had still not gone to the NBA Finals. During the 2019 offseason, Butler signed with the Miami Heat. After a successful regular season and playoff run, the Heat made it to the finals against James’ team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Butler and the Heat went on to lose a six-game series to James and the Lakers featuring amazing performances from both Butler and James. Butler continues to impress and has come a long way since his humble beginnings as a child. 

The 2020 NBA Finals had a big impact on both stars. The outcomes may have been different for  Butler and James, but you cannot deny their success on the court. After Butler’s ninth season and first Finals appearance, he has been recognized for more than just being a good player with a bad personality. He has found his fit in Miami that will hopefully keep the team successful for years to come, and he has earned the respect of the league even when people doubted him. James, once again, showed his greatness after earning his fourth championship, and solidifying his spot as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. James and Butler may have different records and backgrounds, but they both work hard and have a love for the game, and that is what makes them so great.