Jimmy Butler has pushed the Miami Heat to within three wins of an unlikely NBA championship, and if they can accomplish the task by defeating the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals, it would mean the absolute world to the 33-year-old.
“Everything,” Butler told ESPN of what it would mean to him. “What are you talking about? That’s why everybody plays this game — I lied, that’s why a lot of people play this game — is to win a championship. Everybody here — is to win a championship. That’s all we lock in on; that’s all we’re focused on. Like we put so much energy towards winning and playing for one another that if we do this together, we get to celebrate this together, we’re like, I don’t know the word, itched, niched, we made our mark in history together forever, so we’re in that.”
The Heat are Butler’s fourth NBA team after stints with the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers, and he has not won a championship in his 12 seasons. He and the Heat lost the 2020 Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, the only other time he has advanced this far in the playoffs.
The best-of-seven series against the Nuggets is tied 1-1 with Game 3 at Miami on Wednesday night. The Heat won 111-108 in Game 2, handing the Nuggets their first loss at home in these playoffs. The victory was earned in part by a strategic change that put Butler on high-powered Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who scored just 18 points and missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer while guarded by Butler in the final seconds.
It’s that priority to do whatever it takes to win that has been a hallmark of the Heat’s culture this season and in prior years. Butler is in his fourth season with Miami and its acknowledged leader and best player, but he is not searching for accolades other than the championship trophy.
The former first-round pick also is quick to praise his teammates and has said if Miami does win the championship, it will be because of Bam Adebayo.
Butler has taken a back seat offensively to Adebayo and Gabe Vincent in the first two games of the Finals. Butler scored 13 points in Game 1, a 104-93 loss, and followed that with 21 points in the Game 2 win.
The forward had been Miami’s leading scorer in 15 of its 18 playoff games leading into the Finals. He was named Eastern Conference Finals MVP against the Boston Celtics, and he averaged 37.6 points per game in the first-round upset of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler likely will have to contribute more on the offensive end as the series against the Nuggets goes along. Based on his stated burning desire to win, Heat fans can expect him to do whatever is necessary in pursuit of that meaningful championship.