Not all athletes are made to be role models. Just because someone can kick a ball into a net or throw a ball through a hoop better than 99 percent of the population doesn’t mean they’re incredible human beings. Some athletes take pride in being viewed as role models, though, and actively embrace that image.
Jimmy Butler is one such athlete, as he tells Scoop Jackson of ESPN.com. Jackson asked Butler what he takes pride in the most. Predictably, Butler said winning championships, at least as far as his on-court pride is concerned. His answer about what he’s most proud of off the court, however, was terrific.
Off the court, it’s seeing the smiles on kids’ faces whenever they see me. It’s that whole “being a role model” thing. That’s huge.
The other night I was at dinner, and two kids walked up to me and all they wanted to do was just talk to me. They didn’t want to take pictures, they didn’t want any autographs, they just wanted to talk. Say hello because they were fans. And that, that’s the biggest point for me, man. Those things. When all they want to do is give me a hug or shake my hand or talk to me for five minutes, because they know who I am and I play basketball. It changes peoples’ lives. You never know it, you never think that someone would say, “Oh, if I meet this person,” that it could change everything. You never know what people are going through. And you can tell it means something because their faces just light up. It makes you feel like their night, their year, their lives have been made just off of that one interaction.
Professional athletes are afforded the amazing opportunity to profoundly impact the lives of others. Often times, we think of this impact in monetary terms, such as Kevin Durant donating money to help rebuild weather-ravaged parts of Oklahoma. It’s not always about money, though.
Sometimes, a few minutes spent talking with a fan is enough to change their lives. Butler seems to understand that as well as anyone.