Jimmy Butler probably knows how to forgive, but he definitely doesn’t forget.
After the Heat eliminated the 76ers from the 2022 NBA Playoffs with a 99-90 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night, the All-Star forward took a shot at his former team. On his way back to the locker room, Butler, who scored 32 points in the Game 6 victory, could be heard making a comment about Sixers forward Tobias Harris.
“Tobias Harris over me?” Butler said.
Jimmy Butler with a strong message for the 76ers after the Heat beat Philly in the Eastern Conference Finals. “Tobias Harris over me?”
— WPLG Local 10 Sports (@Local10Sports) May 13, 2022
If you’re feeling a bit lost, here’s some context…
Back in November 2018, the 76ers acquired Butler as part of a blockbuster trade with the Timberwolves. After a season that ended with a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Raptors in the 2019 NBA Playoffs — remember Kawhi Leonard’s four-bouncer? — Philadelphia had a difficult decision to make.
As ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne recently reported, the organization felt it needed to choose between Butler and Ben Simmons because both players were at their best with the ball in their hands and Simmons failed to build a strong relationship with Butler. The Sixers picked Simmons, and Butler joined the Heat as part of a sign-and-trade deal.
But that wasn’t Philly’s only major move. The front office also handed Harris a five-year, $180 million contract. While the 76ers reportedly viewed the dilemma as Butler vs. Simmons, it seems the man himself considered it Butler vs. Harris — and he didn’t like it.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it’s now clear that letting Butler go was the wrong decision. Simmons eventually forced his way out of Philadelphia, and Butler has been thriving in Miami for the past three seasons. Harris has been a solid contributor, but he isn’t on Butler’s level.
Even Joel Embiid admitted after Game 6 that he missed Butler’s presence.
“I still don’t know how we let him go,” Embiid said. “I wish I could’ve gone to battle with him still, but it is what it is. You’ve just gotta keep building and keep trying to reach that goal.”
“I still don’t know how we let him go.”
Joel Embiid still in pain over losing Jimmy Butler to the Heat 👀😢 pic.twitter.com/vN51ioWSy0
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 13, 2022
Butler and Embiid have remained close friends despite being Eastern Conference rivals, and Butler had nothing but kind words to share when asked about his postgame message to Embiid.
“[I told him] that I love him,” Butler said. “I’m proud of him. Yes, yes, yes, I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat, though, man. I’m glad that I’m here, but I got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.”
“I love him. I’m proud of him.”
Jimmy Butler shouts out Joel Embiid and says he wishes he still played with him. pic.twitter.com/Q1MF8VUi3F
— ESPN (@espn) May 13, 2022