Jimmy Butler, you’ve been through a lot in your young life. There’s a book you should read about a nice, innocent guy who also goes through a lot. His name is Bilbo Baggins, and the book is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Don’t be fooled by the wildly overdone nine-hour movie trilogy, The Hobbit is a quick read, something you can handle on a team flight or two.
Much like Jimmy Butler, Bilbo Baggins was humble. He wanted to live his life in The Shire, not bothering anybody, and he definitely didn’t want the spotlight. He was dragged into a world of wizards and dragons, dwarves and elves, giant spiders, trolls, orcs and goblins, and became a hero.
He was the Middle Earth version of a role player. Bilbo was brought along on an insane quest as a specialist, a thief. You are a specialist, a defensive lockdown expert, and much like Bilbo your task seems difficult if not impossible—to steal from a dragon’s hoard or to shut down elite NBA scorers, so the Chicago Bulls can finally return to the promised land of the Finals. Bilbo has to bring the dwarves back to their promised land of Erebor, and that is no easy task.
Even as an All-Star, you have still cast yourself as a role player. The heroism and drama is for the likes Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. You’ve gone so far as to make a point that you are not a star. And yet, you find yourself as a key figure in the oncoming NBA Playoff war.
A sleeping dragon awaits you in Cleveland. Goblins and orcs in DC. The mysterious forest of Atlanta. You were on the cover of SI as the unlikely star. A theme of The Hobbit is that great heroism comes from the unlikeliest places. D-Rose is a lot like Thorin Oakenshield, a king who did everything for his homeland but is cursed and doomed and needs others to help him see the right path. You have to talk sense into him, you have to succeed where he has failed, the deep waters of the NBA Playoffs. And even if you win it all, there is something you acquire on your journey, a certain ring, which will haunt you. It’s a great story. You should read it to get mentally ready, so you can make it there and back again.
Sam Rubenstein is a SLAM contributing writer and a high school English teacher in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @SamRubenstein.
Mike Conley Jr x A Separate Peace
Stephen Curry x The Outsiders
Dwyane Wade x MacBeth
Andrew Wiggins x The Call of the Wild
Kobe Bryant x Dracula