Meet the Bulls' urban cowboy

You can't take the country out of Jimmy Butler

November 07, 2012|By Bryan Crawford@_BryanCrawford | For RedEye

If you don't know a lot about Jimmy Butler, Bulls fans, it's understandable. He didn't see a lot of action as a rookie last season.

His sophomore campaign will be different as No. 21 is expected to contribute a lot more this season. But the question remains, who is Jimmy Butler?

The answer may surprise you.

He hails from Tomball, Texas, a small town of about 11,000 people that's 34 miles north of Houston. Given that proximity, one might think Butler would have big-city tendencies.

But it turns out Butler calls dinner "supper" and has an affinity for country music and cowboy boots. In fact, his boot collection is similar to most basketball players' sneaker stashes.

"I feel like it's my own thing," Butler said. "It's not my way of being different; I just want my own style. Not too many people do it. I'm from Tomball, a small town—it's country. But that's where I'm from and I like wearing cowboy boots. My teammates get a kick out of it, but it's just like wearing Adidas, like wearing Jordans or wearing Nikes."

His teammates certainly enjoy teasing him about it.

"You know, I guess that's that Texas swag," said Joakim Noah, a New York native. "I mean, I've never met a black man that wore cowboy boots like that before."

Taj Gibson, another native New Yorker, was even less diplomatic.

"It's terrible, just terrible," Gibson said. "But that's his swag so I'm gonna roll with him. But it's not me at all."

Butler didn't wear cowboy boots as a kid; it wasn't until he got to college that his inner cowboy was set free.

"When I was at Marquette, everyone kept calling me 'country' and saying I had cows in my backyard and stuff like that," said Butler, who's averaging 4.5 points in 14 minutes per game this season. "So I was like, OK, you wanna call me a cowboy? I'll show y'all a cowboy.

"So I started wearing Wranglers, cowboy boots, hats, the belt buckles, all of that good stuff. And now that I'm here in Chicago, my teammates know that I love country music. They know that I own a guitar. So I figured why not play into the stereotype?"

While many of Butler's teammates aren't familiar with the concept of the black cowboy, Carlos Boozer is not one of them. After years playing for the Utah Jazz, he became acquainted with another NBA player who was about the cowboy life.

"I'm used to seeing Karl Malone with the country gear on in Utah," Boozer said. "So I told Jimmy that The Mailman does it too, but he goes all out. He has the belt buckle, the ten-gallon hat, all that. Jimmy doesn't rock it like that."

Nate Robinson, Butler's closest friend on the team, is open to wearing cowboy gear, but with conditions.

"I told him I'll wear the cowboy stuff one day, but he's got to wear Jordans and stuff that I like. And I told him, if I wear the cowboy gear, I'm going hard. I need the boots, the big belt buckle, the button-up shirt tucked in, the hat, the straw. See, he doesn't do that; he does it half-ass. He's a half-ass cowboy. I'm going all the way with it."

Bryan Crawford is a RedEye special contributor.


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