Tito Jimmy is still a bucket

Published May 21, 2022, 7:00 PMPolo Bustamante

NBA titos should be cheering for Jimmy Butler, a superstar they can truly relate to.

I’m a tito.

When you reach a certain age, there’s just no denying it. The true sign of titohood is how I value my time. I’m very picky with how I spend my days. I often find myself going back to tried-and-tested ways to entertain myself. I learned that I don’t have the same bandwidth to try out new things. Sure, sometimes a good show like Succession will slip through my curmudgeonly cracks. But more often than not, I’ll fall back to my old reliables like The Office, FRIENDS, John Mayer, and NBA games. 

The playoffs this year, though, feels brand new, like something I’m only finding out about now. The old reliables – LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard – are all missing in action. Taking their place in the spotlight this year is the next generation of NBA superstars. Don’t get me wrong. Ja Morant is breathtaking. Luka Doncic is ridiculous. Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker are natural-born killers. They’re all fun to watch.

That being said, my search bar is getting a workout trying to understand the references in this year’s playoffs. I’ve had to search for “griddy+slang,” do a background study on Whoop That Trick, and even go through TMZ to understand the effects of the Kardashian “curse” on Booker. 

It’s tiring, man.

That’s why more and more, I find myself gravitating towards Jimmy Butler. At 32 years old, Butler is already the elder statesman (read: tito) in this year’s playoffs. His game definitely shows it.

Butler likes going back to what’s comfortable. For him, it’s the midrange game. Rather than succumb to the pressure of hoisting up 3-balls like the rest of the players around him, Butler stands his ground and plays to his strengths. 

It’s a familiar sight in these playoffs so far. Butler will screen for the ball handler to force a switch. Once he gets his matchup, he’ll grind down the defense, until he gets his shot in the midrange. In Game 1, he scored 41 points even if he shot only two 3-pointers all game. In Game 2, he managed to put up 29 points, hitting only one outside shot on three attempts. Why should Butler step out of his comfort zone when he’s doing so well? In two games against the Boston Celtics, he’s averaging 35 points on 62% shooting. I say let Jimmy keep getting his buckets. Don’t bother him with your pace and space mumbo jumbo.

Beyond his game, Butler’s leadership and competitiveness are both important veteran (read: tito) qualities the Miami Heat are lucky to have.

Some say that Butler fits into the Heat’s culture perfectly. That’s true. Butler is a hard-working, no-nonsense player, the kind of dog Pat Riley likes on his teams. He’s the alpha dog that sets the tone for the Heat. What’s admirable about his leadership is that he’s more bite than bark. He lets his game do the talking. 

In Game 1, when his team was down big to the Celtics, Butler didn’t hang his head in defeat. He couldn’t. If he did, the rest of the team would follow suit. Rather than fire them up with a pep talk, Butler went to work in the third quarter and showed the team what needed to be done. That’s big tito energy right there. Get me my tools and get out of the way.

One thing that age can’t take away is that will to win. It’s obvious that Butler has that fire inside him. He doesn’t just want to win the game, he actually wants to beat the guy across from him more. It’s like he has a hit list and he wants to beat every player on that list. The best part is he won’t talk trash during the game. He’ll go about it quietly. Scoring on his guy, defending his assignment. Once it’s done, watch out. He’s going to let everyone know that he beat you. 

Butler is a living reminder that you can’t spell “competitiveness” without “petty.” 

Watching Butler feels like home because he reminds me so much of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett. Those guys are old school, just like him. Kobe lived in the midrange, Timmy quietly led his team, and KG always let everyone know he was winning.

One final note: this is the ultimate sign of Butler’s titohood. 

While everyone is lugging around their video game consoles, he’s carefully loading his espresso machine into the team plane. Rather than live off substandard coffee on the road, Butler prefers to bring his $6,000 machine to make his coffee. That’s why I’m a Jimmy Butler fan. We both believe in the power of a good cup of coffee.