Bulls All-Star shooting guard and small forward Jimmy Butler visited a Chicago high school last Wednesday to talk about the importance of breakfast — and have a little fun on the court.
The event was part of Kellogg’s Give a Child Breakfast initiative, which aims to fight childhood hunger. According to a recent study, nearly one in five kids nationwide struggle with hunger and may go without breakfast every day.
Butler spoke to students at Phoenix Military Academy about healthy eating habits, as well as his basketball career and the challenges he faced growing up.
“I’m here to help all kids make sure they don’t go hungry,” Butler said. “What I try to do is change lives because of what it was like for me growing up.”
“Breakfast is where it all starts,” he added. “It’s super important to start the day off the right way.”
Butler then joined the students — all high school juniors — at tables set up in the gymnasium for a breakfast that included Kellogg’s cereals, apple and orange juice, milk, and apples.
After breakfast, Butler and the students hit the court for a free-throw shootout. Butler donated $50 for every made shot, $650 in all.
But then Butler decided to make things interesting. He couldn’t use his left hand due to an elbow sprain. So he pledged to donate $10,000 if he could make three one-handed shots. He drained them all, including one from behind the three-point line.
Then he turned to 16-year-old Jabaree White.
“You can’t shoot one-handed threes like I can,” Butler said. “I’ll make you a bet. I’ll give you three shots. If you make it, I give another $10,000 to your school.”
An excited murmur swept through the crowd of about 75 students that had gathered around the free throw line.
“Come on, Jabaree!” one girl shouted. He released a one-handed jumper that splashed through the hoop, and pandemonium erupted. Jabaree’s classmates yelled and shouted as they mobbed him.
Butler could only shake his head.
“That’s a nice shot,” he admitted, though he could barely be heard over the din of the crowd. A video of the basket posted on YouTube had garnered hundreds of views within hours and was featured on SI.com, Yahoo Sports, SportingNews.com, NBCSports.com, and other sites.
Did Jabaree think he’d make the shot? “Yes,” he said later, as the crowd around him began to thin. “I always have confidence in my shot.”
Butler gave a lot to Phoenix Military Academy on Wednesday. But it gave him some things, too.
He received a plaque and an honorary degree from the school. And when he was asked what inspired him to help fight hunger, he was clear in his answer: It’s all about the kids.
“I try to be involved in the community as much as possible [because] I want to see you all reach your dreams and potential,” he said. “I like to see smiles on kids’ faces.”
He told SI Kids after the event that diet is key to staying in shape. “If you’re eating junk food and not starting your day off the right way, your workout isn’t going to go as planned,” he said.
Butler said he eats six meals a day, and breakfast is his favorite. “We have a [team] nutritionist to be make sure we have all the food groups,” he said.
And how is that elbow of his? “I’m good. I’m healthy,” he told SI Kids. He added that he still believes the Bulls can win the title this year even with the injuries to key players such as himself and Derrick Rose. “I think we’ll be just fine.”
Photos: Jean-Marc Giboux/ AP Images for Kellogg Company