Of all the unbelievable feats Jimmy Butler pulled off during the past nine months, it's what he's done off the court that seems just as remarkable.
In the cover story for the February 23 edition of Sports Illustrated, NBA reporter Ben Golliver detailed just how hard the Chicago Bulls star worked during the summer to get himself ready for the 2014-2015 season.
He moved back to Texas for the offseason. He cut off his cable and Internet, presumably to avoid distractions. And he worked out three times a day and trimmed 13 pounds in the process.
He took on "endless" ball-handling drills and looking to improve his jump shot, studied film of the most famous player ever to wear the Chicago Bulls uniform, Michael Jordan.
And it paid off, too. Butler upped his scoring average by over seven points, shattering preseason projections for his performance to earn his first All-Star game appearance.
Butler told Elite Daily,
But, that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of his remarkable story.
As the story goes, Butler's early life in Tomball was nothing like it is today.
After being shunned from his home at age 13, simple things like where he was going to rest his head any given week or what he'd have for dinner weren't always available.
There was just one constant: basketball. He said,
Read any interview with Butler and you'll notice an (understandable) reluctance to revisit the past.
As he said during one interview before the 2011 NBA Draft, he hates the idea of making people feel sorry for him.
This interview was no different. When asked whether or not his emergence as an All-Star this season is that much more special because of the times in high school, he offered up a coy response:
And he has a point. All good things must be worked for, and it's the work he did in response to the harder times that's the most impressive.
Butler was an All-District player his senior season at Tomball High, but he didn't receive any Division I scholarship offers.
Despite an impressive freshman season the following year at nearby Tyler Junior College, Butler was still nowhere near a highly-rated prospect, even within his own class of JUCO players.
Still, he found his way to Marquette University, where he performed well enough to earn selection by the Bulls as the last pick of the 2011 draft.
You might say those early (obviously wrong) ratings made his success today that much sweeter. Then again, Butler isn't one to put much into others' opinions. He said,
Today, he has indeed proven himself right, with his assertions about what the game could do for him and his family ringing truer than ever.
At the end of the season and with his rookie contract coming to a close, Butler is looking at a significant pay raise.
Before then, however, there is much more important business to be handled.
Here's where Butler stands: He's the leading scorer for a team that had its fair share of analysts backing it to win the Eastern Conference title this season.
The one caveat with that prediction, though, is the matter of staying healthy.
And yet, it is what the Chicago Bulls have been able to do time and time again when they're not healthy that makes them such an admirable team.
Whether it's rookie forward Nikola Mirotić coming up with 23 points in a big win for the Bulls (without the now injured Butler), winning a seven-game playoff series without Derrick Rose or having a guy like Butler himself defy expectations with a season like this, Chicago always seems to find a way to keep going under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
On the hardwood, it is that type of tough-minded attitude that makes Butler such an attractive player. Off the floor, his philanthropic work does the same.
Butler says it is his love for kids that pushed him to work with Kellogg's during National School Breakfast Week, which started on Monday.
One out of five kids in America starts the day without breakfast, and Kellogg's and Butler are looking to do something about it.
On Wednesday, Butler visited Chicago's Phoenix Military Academy to raise awareness and put his money where his heart is.
Butler committed to matching the $10,000 donation from Kellogg's to the school after he lost a bet over whether or not one of the students could make a big shot.
Through its Breakfast for Better Days initiative, Kellogg's plans to provide one billion servings of cereal and snacks to children and families in need by the end of 2016.
As for Butler, he says knowing kids look up to him is what he takes the most pride in these days. His All-Star play this season and his work with Kellogg's can only cement that fact.