Inside the incredible rise of Jimmy Butler from homeless teen aged 13 to NBA superstar and favorite for Finals MVP

JIMMY Butler’s life feels like something straight out of a Hollywood movie.

It is the basketball equivalent of The Blind Side, the inspirational tale of Michael Oher’s journey from homeless teenager to NFL star made famous by the Sandra Bullock film.

Jimmy Butler was taken in by Michelle Lambert when he was 17 years old

Jimmy Butler was taken in by Michelle Lambert when he was 17 years oldCredit: Alamy

Lambert already had seven children at the time

Lambert already had seven children at the timeCredit: Alamy

Butler was recently awarded the NBA Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy

Butler was recently awarded the NBA Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophyCredit: EPA
After being abandoned by his father as an infant, Butler’s mother kicked him out of the family home when he was just 13.

“I don’t like the look of you. You gotta go,” the Miami Heat superstar recalled his mother’s last words to him.

It was a moment which could easily have broken the teenager from Tomball, Texas, as he bounced around from house to house over the next four years.

But a turning point came in Butler’s senior year of high school, when he forged a friendship with Jordan Leslie during a shooting contest at basketball camp.

The two student athletes quickly became friends and soon afterwards Leslie’s mother, Michelle Lambert, decided to take in Butler despite already having seven children of her own.

Lambert insisted on settling some ground rules for Butler, including having a curfew and improving his grades at school.

With the prospect of finally having some stability in his life, he was happy to accept.

“I told him my kids looked up to him,” Lambert told ESPN.

“He had to stay out of trouble. Work hard in school. He had to set an example. And you know what? Jimmy did it.

“Anything I asked him to do, he did it without asking questions.”

Butler is forever grateful for the opportunity given to him by Lambert, someone who he now calls his mom.

“They accepted me into their family,” Butler said.

“And it wasn’t because of basketball. She was just very loving.

“She just did stuff like that. I couldn’t believe it.”

Butler’s basketball career soon took off and he averaged 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for Tomball High School Cougars in his senior season.

The prospect of an NBA career seemed distant at best, however, with Butler only able to secure a scholarship at nearby Tyler Junior College after he was overlooked by bigger universities.

After an impressive season at Tyler, the offers came flooding in for Butler including Marquette, Kentucky, Clemson, Mississippi State and Iowa State.

Butler chose to transfer to Marquette in 2008 and he soon began to attract the attention of NBA scouts after game-winning shots against the University of Connecticut and St. John’s.

In 2011, Butler achieved the seemingly impossible dream as a homeless teenager when he was selected 30th in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls.

“His story is one of the most remarkable I’ve seen in all my years of basketball,” one NBA general manager said ahead of the 2011 Draft.

“There were so many times in his life where he was set up to fail.

“Every time, he overcame just enormous odds.

“When you talk to him – and he’s hesitant to talk about his life – you just have this feeling that this kid has greatness in him.”

Having earned over $180million, Butler prefers to look forward rather than in the rear-view mirror in his career and life.

“If I continue to be stuck in the past, then I won’t get any better,” he told Chicago magazine in 2015.

“I won’t change, I’ll get stuck as that kid. That’s not who I am.

“I’m so far ahead of that.”

In the NBA, Butler’s career mirrored his upbringing somewhat as he bounced around the league at the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers after leaving the Bulls in 2017.

But he has now found his home at the Heat, whom he has now led to a second NBA Finals in recent years after an epic seven-game Eastern Conference Finals victory against the Boston Celtics.

As he prepares to take on Nicola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals, Butler is seeking the storybook ending to his incredible life story.

Butler's college career took off after he transferred to Marquette

Butler’s college career took off after he transferred to MarquetteCredit: Getty

Butler played for the Minnesota Timberwolves after leaving the Chicago Bulls

Butler played for the Minnesota Timberwolves after leaving the Chicago BullsCredit: Getty

He has now found a home at the Miami Heat

He has now found a home at the Miami HeatCredit: Getty Images – Getty

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