Heat star Jimmy Butler went viral after Miami’s game against Boston on Tuesday, but not for anything he did during a game.
A 12-year-old Argentinian fan, who held up a sign saying he traveled more than 4,400 miles to see Butler play against the Celtics on Tuesday, was caught on video crestfallen upon learning the veteran forward was scratched from the game with lower-back tightness.
“Honestly, I was devastated,” Butler said Thursday. “I don’t want to miss games. I don’t.”
But the Heat quickly turned Felipe’s frown upside down. The team brought him onto the court at halftime, and he took a picture with forward Gabe Vincent. The team also gave him a signed Butler jersey and other merchandise. After the game, Butler met with Felipe and his family.
“It was great, man,” Butler said. “Felipe and his sister, Zoe — it’s incredible to know that I have fans like that around the world that’ll fly 4,405 miles to watch me shoot a basketball. So much love, and I’m glad I could put a smile to their faces.”
Butler said he enjoyed getting to spend some time with the young fan and his family.
“He’s a huge basketball fan,” Butler said. “He plays basketball, himself. He actually does everything. He skateboards, he surfs, he’s an incredible kid. So I’m glad we can spend some time together.”
For his part, Vincent said he did not know about Felipe’s circumstances at the time. He just saw a child crying on the court and wanted to try to cheer him up.
“It was great,” Vincent said. “I honestly didn’t know what was going on. I just saw him on the court. I saw him in tears, crying. I didn’t know if it was tears of joy or tears of sadness, so I just stepped in, asked them if they wanted to take a photo, and took a flick and found everything out later on after the game.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the series of events shows that Butler and the other Heat players know how important the fans are to the team.
“That is cool because our guys and Jimmy, they understand what drives this business, and that’s the fan and people really enjoying players competing, playing at a high level, things that they can’t do,” Spoelstra said. “That was a very genuine moment. And Jimmy as a late scratch — this is not one of these load management things. He physically couldn’t go. He was doing everything he possibly could to get out there and then all of a sudden, found out about that, and he was going to — one way or another — make a lifelong experience and memory for the kid and the family.”
Any other fans traveling long distances to see Butler, who has missed 15 games this season, play against Orlando on Friday are in luck. Butler said his back felt better and he would be in the lineup against the Magic.
“I’m much better,” Butler said. “I’m playing tomorrow. That’s all that matters. And I’ll be ready to go for the long haul.”