Jimmy Butler celebrates shoe release with surprise visit to Fenwick High School


Jimmy Butler celebrates shoe release with surprise visit to Fenwick High School

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.”

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.