“I have decided not to. With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn’t go on there as well,” Butler said during his remote media availability session from the NBA’s restart on the Disney World campus in Florida. “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.
“And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”
Butler would need NBA approval for his unique idea. If he received it, it would symbolically place him back in the same status of anonymity as many African-Americans who have experienced police brutality, a crucial point in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’m hoping I get that opportunity though,” Butler said. “I really am.”
Butler admitted he considered sitting out the league’s 22-team restart to make a statement in that fashion, a strong admission from one of the league’s most competitive players. But ultimately, the former Bulls All-Star forward said just as much positive impact can occur by playing.
“Being away from your family is hard. What’s going on in the world right now it’s hard. But being here, it’s also hard. It’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “But we get the opportunity to talk amongst each other, learn about each other and everybody’s stories that’s here. And knowing that we’re all in this together, we’re all in this for the greater good. And I can tell you that everybody here is with the equality because it’s real. It needs to happen. There just has to be more action behind it.”
Butler called life inside the so-called bubble “easy,” a testament to the intricate and exhaustive planning undertaken by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. The Heat have been one of the surprise stories of the NBA season, and Butler offered a colorful answer when asked how he kept sharp during the four-month hiatus since COVID-19 paused the league.
“The whole thing was just find a way to compete, whether it be at cards or at dominoes or a footrace, whatever it is. Keep your mind thinking, ‘I have to be the best. I have to win,’” Butler said. “And then as far as working out goes, if you have a gym at your house or a basket, yeah, go ahead. Work out. Shoot. But just ride the bike. Lift some weights. Do some yoga. Do some pilates, whatever that might be. And I think the Miami Heat did a great job of using Zoom to do pilates, yoga, lift together, talk. I think that was huge to getting back to where we are right now.”
Back in April, Butler even sent portable baskets to all his teammates. So, yes, Butler is ready. He always is.
We've got good news, and we've got bad news. Alright, it's all bad news.
The Bulls' plan to assemble a Big 5 of Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah? It really seems as if it was closer to coming to fruition than we thought.
First, ESPN's Brian Windhorst detailed the meetings leading up to The Decision back in the summer of 2010, laying out pretty clearly that the Bulls were in the final running for the free agents' landing spot along with only the Miami Heat.
To me, the story (of The Decision) and the conversation starts with Chris Bosh. Because you talk to people in that Bulls organization, including former players, Chris Bosh said he was coming to the Bulls. Straight up.
Chris Bosh and the Bulls were supposed to be together, at least in Chicago's mind. And then as that week played out, as I know you (Windhorst) get into in the story, they went, 'Oh, what's happening here?' But as far as the Bulls were concerned, they felt like they had a commitment — at least some people in the organization did — from Chris Bosh. They felt like Dwyane Wade would follow, they hoped that that would work out, especially as the days continued into that first weekend.
And then to see everything kind of fall apart in that fashion, and see all three of the big guns go to Miami the way they did.. Frankly, I still don't think the Bulls are all the way over it. The storyline with the Bulls always will be, always, is Derrick Rose got hurt and it changed the course of the franchise. But I can just tell you living through it, that there are still people in that organization that have not gotten over all the different things that happened that summer.
Would a consummated committal from Bosh have spurred Wade and James to follow? How many chips could that Bulls team have won with that core? It's all lost in the ether.
One of the biggest What Ifs in Bulls history just got decidedly What Iffier.
In advance of the 10-year anniversary of The Decision, in which LeBron James cemented the completion of the Miami Heat’s Big 3 along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst published a wide-spanning feature on the deliberations that led up to James announcing he was “taking his talents to South Beach” on national television.
Unsurprisingly, the Bulls featured prominently in the piece. Highlights: The Bulls hosted Wade for multiple meetings, which featured an elaborate video presentation and Wade “beaming” while donning a red, No. 3 Bulls jersey. Trade talks for Luol Deng sparked with the Los Angeles Clippers (who eventually declined) and Toronto Raptors, which could have opened three max salary slots for Chicago. Derrick Rose taped a video as part of the team’s recruiting efforts, but it was deemed by the free agents to lack “enthusiasm.” Four days before The Decision, Wade, Bosh and James reportedly entered a conference call weighing options between the Bulls and Heat, but came out committed to Miami.
Old wounds, rehashed.
But perhaps the freshest nugget of info from the piece will open a new one. According to Windhorst, with Rose only marginally involved in recruiting, Joakim Noah took on a leading role attempting to woo James, specifically. In the days leading up to The Decision, Noah reportedly dialed up James, but received no answer, or even a call-back. A testament, Windhorst noted, to the two’s already-tense relationship.
Their rivalry escalated from there, which Bulls fans know all too well. Here’s a timeline of the events that comprise Noah and James’ ever-enduring feud.
Dec. 4, 2009: The Dance
An innocuous regular season blowout at the Bulls’ expense turned tense midway through the fourth quarter. With Cleveland leading 89-71 and upon being fouled, James busted out a mini-shimmy before taking the charity stripe. It was a continuation of those Cavaliers’ team-wide propensity to break out in dance, both before and during games.
Noah, of course, didn’t take kindly to the show of ebullience. He chirped James from the Bulls’ bench while the Cavs star took his free throws. After canning the first, James approached the Bulls bench and the two continued to exchange heated words. James eventually drew a technical.
Postgame comments from James paint the picture of an already acrimonious relationship, even in just Noah’s second NBA season.
“It’s nothing against the Bulls and it’s nothing against Joakim or none of those guys,” James said that night, via the Herald-Review. “It’s nothing about showboating on a team. I’ve seen it happen all last year. I think he (Noah) is just more frustrated about the way he played as an individual. He didn’t help his team win.”
The loss moved the Bulls to 7-10 on the season and the Cavs to 14-5. The incident came four months before the Cavaliers faced the Bulls in the 2010 Eastern Conference first round, and seven-to-eight months before the Bulls attempted to recruit LeBron to Chicago.
April, 2010: “What’s so good about Cleveland?”
Speaking of that first-round series… It was during that matchup that Noah made his now-famous, disparaging comments towards the entire city of Cleveland. A sampling:
We have yet to spot the lie, but it would come as no surprise if that struck a nerve with LeBron.
“Noah’s one of those guys that likes attention,” James said when asked to respond to the comments, via a video from the Chicago Tribune. “I’m not gonna get too far into what he said, it means absolutely nothing to the series.”
Fact-check: True. James and the Cavaliers trounced the Bulls in five games.
July, 2010: The Ignored Phone Call
By way of new reporting from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Noah allegedly led the recruiting effort for James from the Bulls’ player side in the summer of 2010. But when he called James to presumably check in on where he was in his decision-making process, there was no response. James never returned the call.
May 26, 2011: “Hollywood as hell”
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that James and Noah’s beef escalated in the 2010s. Take this from Noah after the new-look, Big 3 Heat ousted the Bulls in five games in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals:
“You gotta give credit where credit is due. Miami’s a hell of a team,” Noah told reporters after a Game 5 loss that ended the Bulls’ season. “They’re Hollywood as hell. But they’re still very good.”
Yeah, no bad blood there at all.
May 8, 2013: Another Playoff Tiff
In an especially physical Game 2 romp by the Heat over the Bulls in the 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals, Noah and James got into it again:
The Heat went on to a dominating 115-78 victory, and Noah and Taj Gibson were ejected from the game late.
April - May, 2015: More Words Exchanged
With the 2014-15 regular season winding down, James and Noah clashed again in the fourth quarter of a nationally televised contest after Noah scurried to snag the ball from James’ hands as the latter argued a travel call. An antagonistic move no doubt:
Then, just over a month later, the two clashed again during Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals at the United Center (which Derrick Rose ultimately won with a banked-in, buzzer-beating 3-pointer). James drew a technical for staring Noah down, and probably hurling a word or two in his direction, after dropping a baseline dunk on his head. Noah’s response was vintage:
The clapping, the veins bursting from his neck. The words he appears to exchange with James are unsavory, but it encapsulates the two’s relationship.
Now, they’re on opposite ends of one of the more exhilarating rivalries in the current NBA: Lakers-Clippers. Noah is, of course, far from the player he once was, but if some shenanigans or banter were traded between the two, it would add a fun wrinkle to the league’s 22-team restart.