If Jimmy Butler was somehow oblivious to the love he's receiving in Philly and within the 76ers organization, the swingman definitely found out about it Monday night after a 119-114 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
That's when he shared a long embrace with Sixers legend Allen Iverson. It was definitely a welcome-to-the-family type of hug from the Hall of Famer.
"[I've been] a fan of his since I was little," Butler said. "I've always looked up to the way he plays, the heart, the passion, the emotion."
The adoration is mutual.
Back in February, the two conversed at Dwyane Wade's party during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. It marked the fourth time Butler had been selected as an All-Star. Iverson approached him to say how much he admired the 29-year-old as a player and person.
"Look at how everything unfolds," said Butler, who plays with the same heart that Iverson displayed. "Now I am here in Philly, and he is one of the [greats] to play here. So it's a good feeling."
Butler said Iverson revealing his admiration for him during the All-Star weekend meant "everything."
"When you are talking about a killer on that court, he is one of the few names that you bring up," he said. "Just listening to him, picking his brain and for him to tell me he thinks I'm a really good player goes a long way, especially for me who did it the long way."
Butler wasn't heavily recruited out of Tomball High School in Texas. So he spent a year at Tyler Junior College to get more recruiting interest. After being the 127th-ranked junior-college prospect, Butler accepted a scholarship to Marquette. He went on to become the 30th pick in the 2011 draft.
He has developed into one of the league's best players, one who pairs nicely with Joel Embiid, the Sixers' other All-Star. Butler is averaging 18.3 points and shooting 55.3 percent in four games since being acquired with Justin Patton from Minnesota on Nov. 12 for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick. He's also averaging 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals.
Butler scored 14 points in his Sixers debut last Wednesday, basically deferring to his teammates in a 111-106 loss at Orlando. Butler was more aggressive in the next two games, lifting the Sixers to back-to-back victories over the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Hornets.
Butler had 28 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals in the home win over the Jazz. Then the swingman's three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left lifted the Sixers to a 122-119 overtime victory over the Hornets on Saturday night in Charlotte. The play came 15.4 seconds after Butler blocked Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker's 9-foot jumper and tapped the ball to teammate Wilson Chandler while going out of bounds. He finished with 15 points, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. Against Phoenix on Monday, he had 16 points on only nine shots, with two steals.
Butler can opt out of the final year of his contract next summer to become a free agent. But he and the Sixers expect to reach a deal on a long-term contract by then. That makes sense because the Sixers have his Bird rights. They can offer him a five-year, $190 million max contract next summer. Teams that don't have his rights can offer only a four-year, $141 million max contract in free agency.
And by the looks of his embrace with Iverson, he's already a part of the Sixers family.
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