Jimmy Butler III was born September 14, 1989 in Houston. He grew up in Tomball, Texas, and played college basketball for Tyler Junior College and Marquette University. He was drafted with the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. He is a three-time NBA All-Star, and three-time NBA All-Defensive Team honoree. He was named to his first All-NBA Team in 2017. In 2015, he was also named the NBA Most Improved Player.
Before the 2011 draft, one NBA general manager said about Butler, "His story is one of the most remarkable I've seen in all my years of basketball. There were so many times in his life where he was set up to fail. Every time, he overcame just enormous odds. When you talk to him -- and he's hesitant to talk about his life -- you just have this feeling that this kid has greatness in him."
Born in Houston, Texas, Butler's father abandoned the family when he was an infant. By the time he was 13 years old and living in the Houston suburb of Tomball, his mother kicked him out of the house. As Butler remembered it in a 2011 interview, she told him, "I don't like the look of you. You gotta go." He then bounced between the homes of various friends, staying for a few weeks at a time before moving to another house. Despite this Butler has a close relationship with his parents, he said "I don't hold grudges. I still talk to my family. My mom. My father. We love each other. That's never going to change."
In a summer basketball league before his senior year at Tomball High School, he was noticed by Jordan Leslie, a freshman football and basketball player at the school, who challenged him to a three-point shooting contest. The two immediately became friends, and Butler began staying at Leslie's house. Although his friend's mother and stepfather, who had six other children between them, were reluctant at first, they took him in within a few months. Butler would later say, "They accepted me into their family. And it wasn't because of basketball. She (Michelle Lambert, Leslie's mother) was just very loving. She just did stuff like that. I couldn't believe it.
As a junior at Tomball High, Butler averaged 10 points per game. As a senior and team captain in 2006-07, Butler averaged 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and was subsequently voted his team's most valuable player.
Butler was not heavily recruited coming out of high school and chose to attend Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. After his freshman season at Tyler, where he averaged 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, Butler gained interest from Division I programs. Considered a two-star recruit by 247Sports.com, he was listed as the #127 junior college prospect in 2008.
Butler accepted an athletic scholarship to attend Marquette, where, as a sophomore in the 2008-09 season, he averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, and recorded a free-throw percentage of .768. Butler moved into the starting lineup as a junior during the 2009-10 season and averaged 14.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He also earned All-Big East Honorable Mention honors. His season was highlighted by two-game-winning shots vs. UConn and St. John's, helping Marquette finish 11-7 in the Big East and earn its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. As a senior in 2010-11, he averaged 15.7 points per game and earned All-Big East Honorable mention for the second straight year.
Butler was selected with the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. On December 9, 2011, he signed his rookie scale contract with the Bulls. During the lockout-shortened season, he appeared in 42 games all off the bench as he averaged 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game in 2011-12.
In July 2012, Butler joined the Bulls for the 2012 NBA Summer League where he averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in four games. On October 30, 2012, the Bulls exercised their third-year team option on Butler's rookie scale contract, extending the contract through the 2013-14 season. Despite a strong summer league showing, Butler saw little playing time for the first part of the 2012-13 season. When Butler's teammate Luol Deng, the NBA's leader that year in minutes per game, suffered an injury prior to the January 19th game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Butler was finally able to start, and played all but 17 seconds in his first NBA start, recording 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. He continued to play at least 40 minutes in the Bulls' next four games, with 43, 46, 44, and 45 minutes played against the Lakers, Pistons, Warriors, and Wizards. On April 9, 2013, Butler scored a then career-high 28 points, starting in place of the injured Deng, in a 98-101 loss to the Toronto Raptors. By the end of the 2012-13 season, Butler had become a staple of the Bulls' rotation, averaging 40.8 minutes per game in the postseason in just his second year in the NBA.
On October 30, 2013, the Bulls exercised their fourth-year team option on Butler's rookie scale contract, extending the contract through the 2014-15 season. On January 15, 2014, Butler set a Bulls franchise record for minutes played in one game by logging 60 minutes in a triple overtime victory over the Orlando Magic. On June 2, 2014, he was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team.
On November 25, 2014, Butler tied a career-high with 32 points in a loss to the Denver Nuggets. On December 3, 2014, he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for games played in October/November. He later set a new career high of 35 points in a 103-97 win over the New York Knicks on December 18. On January 29, 2015, Butler was named a reserve for the Eastern Conference in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game. On March 2, 2015, he was ruled out for three to six weeks with a left elbow injury. He returned to action on March 23 against the Charlotte Hornets, recording 19 points and 9 rebounds in a 98-96 win.
On April 20, Butler set a playoff career-high for the second-straight game, scoring 31 points in the Bulls' 91-82 win over the Milwaukee Bucks to take a 2-0 lead in their first round series. On April 25, Butler again set a playoff career-high with 33 points, in a Bulls' 92-90 loss to the Bucks, cutting their series lead to 3-2 . They went on to win Game 6 of the series, moving them onto the semi-finals where they lost 4–2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. On May 7, he was named the 2014–15 NBA Most Improved Player, becoming the first player in franchise history to win the award.
On July 9, 2015, Butler re-signed with the Bulls to a five-year, $95 million contract. The deal includes a player option for the fifth year. On December 9, he scored a career-high 36 points in a loss to the Boston Celtics. He topped that mark with 43 points on December 18 in a 147–144 quadruple overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons. On January 3, Butler broke Michael Jordan's team record for points in a half, scoring 40 of his 42 after the break to lead the Bulls to a 115–113 win over the Toronto Raptors. Two days later, he recorded 32 points and a then season-high 10 assists in a 117–106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. On January 14, he scored a career-high 53 points in a 115–111 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Butler also had 10 rebounds and six assists while making 15-of-30 field goals and 21-of-25 free throws to help the Bulls snap a three-game losing streak. He became the first Bulls player to score 50 points since Jamal Crawford in 2004. On February 5, Butler suffered a left knee strain in a game against the Denver Nuggets, and four days later, was ruled out for three to four weeks. He was voted to play in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, but the injury forced him to drop out, and he was subsequently replaced in the East team by teammate Pau Gasol. Butler missed 11 games with the knee injury, returning to action for the Bulls on March 5 against the Houston Rockets. In 34 minutes of action, he recorded 24 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal in a 108–100 win, helping the Bulls snap a four-game losing streak. However, he returned to the sidelines on March 7 for the team's game against the Milwaukee Bucks due to back soreness and swelling in his left knee. After a three-game absence, he returned to action on March 14 against the Toronto Raptors. On April 2, he recorded his first career triple-double with 28 points and career highs of 17 rebounds and 12 assists in a 94–90 loss to the Detroit Pistons. In the Bulls' season finale on April 13, Butler recorded his second career triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 115–105 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. In the Bulls' season opener on October 27, Butler scored a team-high 24 points in a 105–99 win over the Boston Celtics. On November 9, he had a 39-point effort in a 115–107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Three days later, he scored 37 points, hit all 14 free throws, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out a season-high nine assists in a 106–95 win over the Washington Wizards. On November 20, he scored a season-high 40 points in a 118–110 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The following day, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, November 14 through Sunday, November 20. On December 28, he matched his season high with 40 points and hit a 20-footer at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 101–99 comeback victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Butler scored nine points in the final 2½ minutes to rally Chicago. He finished 11 for 11 from the free-throw line and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Bulls overcame a seven-point deficit in the final three minutes. On January 2, 2017, Butler scored 52 points in a 118–111 win over the Charlotte Hornets. He was a point shy of his career high, which he got on January 14, 2016, and scored 20 points in the first half and 17 in the game's final four minutes. He also had 12 rebounds and six assists while shooting 21-of-22 from the free-throw line. On January 7, he hit the 40-point mark for the third time in six games, finishing with 42 points in a 123–118 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors. Two days later, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, January 2 through Sunday, January 8. On January 19, Butler was named a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. After questioning the desire of the team's younger players following a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on January 25, Butler was fined and held out of the starting lineup against the Miami Heat on January 27 as punishment. He subsequently finished with just three points on 1-for-13 shooting. On February 25, 2017, he recorded his third career triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 117–99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. On March 26, 2017, he had 20 points and a career-high 14 assists in a 109–94 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. On April 6, 2017, he recorded his fourth career triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 102–90 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
On June 22, 2017, Butler was traded, along with the rights to Justin Patton (the 16th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft), to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to Lauri Markkanen (the 7th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft).