Butler and Jokic, the giants seeking consecration in the NBA

07:07 PM

Nikola Jokic

At 33 years old, Jimmy Butler He earned a new and unexpected opportunity to fight for his coveted ring of thea NBA leading, feat after feat, the Heat in a prodigious playoffs.

The guard, who overcame a tough childhood in which he was kicked out of the house at the age of 13, faces the fearsome Denver Nuggets of Nikola Jokic in the second Finals of his career.

Always carrying the label of a problem player, Butler failed to shake doubts about his star making until he led the Heat to a first trip to the Finals in 2020, when they fell to thes Lakers de LeBron James.

During his 12-year career he had to start from scratch many times, but none of his resurrections were as spectacular as the one in these playoffs.

After a frustrating regular phase, the Heat they barely got on the postseason in the last train of the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

With favoritism always on the opponent’s side, Miami stunned the NBA by first eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks from Giannis Antetokoummpo, the first seed, with an epic performance by Butler (37 points on average) and then to the New York Knicks, the fifth.

In the final came the revenge for the defeat conceded in 2022 against Celtics in the seventh game.

In Boston, Miami knocked out the Celtics, who had won the last three games and were stroking an unprecedented comeback. The victory (103-84), of which he was the top scorer with 28 points, confirmed the character of a player programmed to fight against adversity.

rescued talent

His father abandoned his family when he was a baby and his mother kicked him out of their home in Tomball, a suburb of Houston, at the age of 13. “I don’t like your appearance. You have to go,” were his mother’s parting words, Butler told ESPN.

For years he was a nomad, sleeping a few weeks on a friend’s sofa. In high school he found a permanent home by being fostered by the family of a friend, Jordan Leslie, who played in the NFL.

With a more stable family life, Butler was able to focus on sports and, although he was not considered a national promise, he earned a scholarship to Marquette University in Wisconsin. In 2019, the mythical Pat Riley He signed up for the Heat, where Butler finally found a sporting home. Within a year he was up against the Lakers in the Finals held behind closed doors in Disney World. Now, as its leader, he hopes to turn the series around and a joy to the team that trusted in his conditions.

Jokic, the NBA star without the prestige he deserves

Will Nikola Jokic never have the popularity of NBA superstars? For now, the 2.11-meter-tall giant, with a style of play never seen before, raised the Denver Nuggets until the first Finals in their history, in which they already dominate the series 1-0 against the Heat.

When the Serbian center made his discreet landing in the league in 2014, not even those closest to him could imagine that he would win two MVP awards (2021 and 2022) and would sign statistics within the reach of the great basketball myths.

His name was not pronounced in that Draft until the Nuggets chose him in 41st place, when Jokic himself had already fallen asleep at dawn in Serbia. Never has a future MVP winner been chosen in such a low place in the Draft as that of ‘Joker’, who came from a team, Mega Basket, unknown outside of Serbia.

In the last nine years, neither the excellence of his basketball nor his individual achievements have catapulted him beyond the world of sports. Jokic’s 28-year-old advertising activity is limited to promoting a beer brand in his country.

a different player

Jokic’s seemingly rugged appearance with unconventional body language and a nose that turns red in the air conditioning are far from NBA showtime standards.

His magical assists and triples are often relegated on social networks by the fierce dunks of his opponents. But when it comes to competitive basketball, the center garners praise from teammates, rivals and coaches, all captivated by his basketball intelligence.

Jokic had an astonishing average of 29.9 points, 13.2 rebounds and 10.1 assists in the playoffs, with percentages of 54.4% from the field and 47.1% from three-pointers. Possibly the best passing center in history, the Serbian signed triple doubles in eight games of these qualifiers, surpassing the legendary record of seven Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967 playoffs.

“He can score, rebound, pass. There are guys who play the way I like to play, and he’s one of them,” LeBron James said after his Lakers were swept 4-0 in the Western finals by Denver.

Praise doesn’t seem to impress this quiet man who returns each summer to his native Sombor, a farming town in northern Serbia. That’s how, arriving at his stable in a horse cart and dressed as a jockey, the Nuggets officials surprised him last year to present him with his second MVP trophy. He is now going for his first NBA ring and then going to rest, without the media focus that he does not claim, next to his family and his horses, his other great passion.

2023-06-03 04:20:09
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