Jimmy Butler couldn’t hide his smile, holding his new performance shoe in his hands, moments before he was supposed to surprise high school basketball teams with a special appearance coinciding with the release of the Jordan Ultra.Fly.
In a room inside Oak Park’s Fenwick High School, a Jordan Brand sponsored school, the two-time All-Star still has moments of humility mixed with the disbelief that he’d made it to this spot—as one of Jordan Brand’s signature athletes.
“It’s crazy,” Butler confessed to CSNChicago.com Friday afternoon at Fenwick. “I’ve come a long way from Tomball, Texas, which everybody has heard me say before, let alone be on the Jordan Brand is big time for me. Just the other athletes we have, Michael Jordan himself, I’m just at a lost for words just to have my own shoe out with the brand. And I’m very fortunate.”
Butler later walked into a classroom where the boys’ and girls’ high school teams were unknowingly waiting on Butler to make his appearance, earning a rousing applause and before posing with the teams for a picture, did a question-and-answer session from Easy Otabor, buyer and operator for RSVP Gallery in Chicago.
Butler has worn the Ultra.Fly in the past few weeks in various colors, and it’s being released nationwide this weekend in a black/green colorway, with more colorways to come at $125. It’s inspired by Jordan’s nickname, “Black Cat”, earned due to the former Bull being graceful, agile and most importantly, cutthroat on the basketball court as a competitor.
“It’s my sneaker. It’s really for athletic individuals like myself,” Butler joked. “The shoe itself is real durable and I think it compliments my game well. It looks good when it’s out there on the floor. When you look good, you feel good, you play good.”
It’s one of the lightest shoes Jordan Brand has to offer and Butler considers it most appropriate and comfortable, given his aggressive style.
“On top of everything else, it can maintain my style of play,” Butler said. “As hard as I try to play on both ends, the Ultra Fly is definitely helping me keep doing that.”
Most of Jordan Brand’s performance shoes have some symbolism to Jordan specifically, and Butler was the muse for this shoe-- which shouldn’t come as a surprise to the player carrying on the Jordan tradition in the city Jordan made himself famous.
“It’s good and it’s bad,” Butler said. “I think it’s good to be one of the faces of Jordan here in this city. But the bad part is everybody wants to compare me to the man himself because we play the same position for the same team and I don’t think I’ll ever want to be compared to him when you see what he’s done for the game, what he’s done for this brand, his brand. I don’t find it too disappointing to be compared to him. Maybe one day I can be half the player he was.”
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Butler shares the responsibility of being on Jordan Brand with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard, among others. Being a member of an exclusive family means that much more.
“I’d hope so. Because that would make me feel really important! 'Aww, Michael Jordan picked me to represent his brand,'” Butler said. “But yeah, I get to see him All-Star, we keep in touch but that’s just how the brand works. It’s really a family, everybody’s taking care of everybody, everybody’s making sure everybody’s doing okay. When you go against another Jordan Brand athlete, it’s all respect, it’s all love.”
The same way he looked up to Jordan is similar in some ways to the way the kids in that classroom looks up to Butler currently—as an inspiration and his mere presence represents a manifestation of the dream, especially to point guard Mike Smith, as Butler has taken Smith under his wing.
“Yeah, exactly, I’ve been in their shoes, wanting to get to where I am now,” Butler said. “I know exactly what they’re going through, how they’re feeling. I’m just trying to get them to understand, it’s all possible if you believe in yourself, work hard and put your mind to it. You can’t believe all the naysayers and doubters telling you that you can’t do anything. Buy into it, hear it enough, that’s not okay. Like I tell Mike (Smith) every day. Do what’s best for you because it’s your life. He’s the only one that can live it. I wish all these kids the best of luck and I want their dreams to come true just like mine did.”