NBA supporters’ hearts have collectively broken after video of a young Jimmy Butler fan went viral.
The Miami Heat claimed a 98-95 win over the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics in a stunning performance from big man Bam Adebayo on Wednesday.
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Before the game, the young fan was pictured in the stands holding a sign addressed to his favourite player.
“Dear Jimmy: We flew over 4405 miles (7000km) to see you play. Can we get a photo or a big face coffee?”
For the record, over 7000km from Miami would put him in the region of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Madrid in Spain, Paris in France or London, England.
Either way, it’s a long way just to go to see your favourite player play — especially when they’re ruled out on the day of the match.
Butler had been ruled out an hour before tip-off with news emerging Butler was going to be sidelined due to lower back tightness, despite having not previously being listed on the injury report.
The young man’s reaction said it all, breaking hearts around the NBA.
On TNT, the commentator said: “Tell Jimmy Butler to take a photo with this kid. Please Jack, we’ve got to get it.”
After the viral moment, Butler and the Heat responded and didn’t let the kid head home empty-handed, posting and image on his Instagram Stories which showed the youngster receive Butler’s jersey.
AP’s Tim Reynolds reported the Heat gave him: “a trip to the court, a jersey, a ball, a memory”.
TNT’s Jamal Crawford said he had also spoken with Butler, “who was really really sick and couldn’t make it to the game.”
“He was watching the game and he saw the kid and felt really really bad, so he has the kids information and let’s just say, the kid will be even happier,” Crawford added.
But while the story has a happy ending, it also exposes what has become a growing point of contention for fans, players and coaches.
Broadcaster Jonathan Zaslow added: “Ridiculous to say things were made right by Jimmy and the team, because that ONE fan got a ball and a jersey. No one else purchased tix and wanted to see Jimmy Butler? He’s the only one? So stupid.”
Prominent NBA Twitter user Rob Perez, who shared the video on his platform to his over one million followers, wrote: “u know how this is going to end. Jimmy/Heat will take care of this kid with a present/photo op etc because it’s great PR. he will be happy. but that’s not the point. this happens with a different star to 100s of people every night who aren’t on camera to collect their reparations.”
He shared the video on a previous thread from a few days earlier where he claimed load management, which was popularised by the LA Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, is set to be the new norm for the best players in the league.
“Back-to-back nights Cleveland gets no Steph, no Giannis, no Donovan. nobody is blaming the players for being injured or managing their bodies, but it is becoming very clear most stars are going to miss double-digit regular season games this year. whatever the reason,” he wrote.
He continued to say the NBA was about to negotiate a new TV rights deal and would make “a gazillion dollars” but would need to rethink how the in-stadium experience is improved for fans.
Last week, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr rested Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on the last night of a five-game road trip in Cleveland after paying the previous night in Boston.
Kerr then said a way to help stop players missing games would be to shorten the regular season from its current 82-game schedule.
“I feel terrible for fans who buy tickets expecting to see someone play and they don’t get to see that person play,” Kerr said, via the Associated Press. “It’s a brutal part of the business. It’s why I’m going to continue to advocate for 72-game seasons …
“You take 10 games off the schedule, it always feels like with 10 games left in the year everybody’s sort of had it anyways. That creates enough rest where we don’t have to have some of these crazy situations. I think you’d see way fewer games missed from players.”
Even the Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff agreed.
“You look at these guys and they’re playing 15 years to some guys 20 years,” he said. “So it’s a trade off of five games a season and you get five more years of these guys playing. So I think in the long run, the fans get their money’s worth because guys do get to extend their career and play more years.
“I know from our standpoint where you only get to see a team once a year. I know that can be frustrating for fans if those guys don’t play but I do think for the greater good of the game, getting these superstars and elite players for multiple years and multiple more seasons, I think is only good for the game.”