SACRAMENTO, Calif. – NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler was offered a ticket to watch his friend, Demaryius Thomas, and his beloved Denver Broncos play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The NBA schedule, though, provided a different plan.
“I can’t go, man. I have to worry about the Bulls winning games,” Butler told Yahoo Sports recently. “I got to do what I have to do to help this team win. I am disappointed. We have the day off, but I’d have a lot of travel to get to the Super Bowl.
“So we’ll actually be in Charlotte [Sunday for a Monday game against the Hornets] while the Panthers are playing. I think it’s a sign.”
Butler said he met Thomas at the ESPY Awards a couple years ago. Butler, whose mom abandoned him at age 13, reached out to Thomas on Twitter in November 2014 after reading a story about Thomas’ difficult childhood, which included his mother and grandmother going to prison.
“I just touched base when I found out a little bit about his background, him being from the country and, obviously, his mom’s situation,” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “We kind of just bonded. All the obstacles he’s been through and how hard he’s worked to get to where he is, I really respect that. It builds character.
“It really shows the type of person you are when everything is against you in order to keep going in a positive way and send positive energy and light. I love him for that because there was so many times where he could have given up.”
As the pair’s friendship grew closer, Butler gave up his allegiance to his hometown Houston Texans and became a Broncos fan. Thomas has said his favorite NBA player is Butler.
“It's good to have a person that knows your background, his background, and you both work hard toward something that you really love,” Thomas told reporters. “It touched me to see how big a fan he is of me, and it's the same with me.”
Although the Super Bowl was out of the question, the schedule did allow Butler to catch up with Thomas and the Broncos this week.
Taking advantage of a Bulls off-day in Sacramento, Butler visited San Francisco on Tuesday.
“It was cool,” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “But I just want to be around them because they’re my guys. Professional athletes have love for one another because you have to be top notch if you’re doing what we’re doing.
“There wasn’t too much football, basketball talk. It was more joking around, checking in on each other, see how everybody’s feeling. It’s like we are family because we care about each other as individuals. Just to hang around each other smiling and get your mind off the game. When the game is on the line and you’re out there, you’re so keyed in on that there is not much else going on.”
Butler said he plans on watching the big game at former Bulls teammate Nazr Muhammad’s home in Charlotte and that he expects his teammates to be “haters” because they aren’t Broncos fans. With NBA All-Star Weekend coming up in Toronto, Butler said he hopes to be standing next to his buddy during a Super Bowl championship parade in Denver next week.
“I will be there. … They’re going to let me ride in it and I am going to be standing right next to him like I’m on the team. I want my helmet!” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “Yeah, if they win it and I can make it, I will make it. Those are my guys.”
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