Bernstein: Jimmy Butler’s Star Not As Bright Up North

By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) The only thing Jimmy Butler seems to like as much or more than playing basketball is being famous for playing basketball. He has embraced his personal narrative of small-town-kid-gone-Hollywood even down to the actually hanging out in Hollywood part, and he revels in the attention provided by his personal accolades, the Jordan brand he endorses and plenty of national television exposure.

He makes his offseason home in Los Angeles, the better for spending time with movie-star pal Mark Wahlberg. His best bud on the Bulls was Dwyane Wade, a fashionable jet-setter himself who set the example for Butler of how a wealthy star looks and behaves.

Good luck cutting that same figure in Minneapolis, however.

It’s a great city, don’t get me wrong. Summers are nice there, even if some of the other months can test one’s resolve. It’s just really hard to be notable there, no matter one’s stock in trade.

Kevin Garnett transcended the No. 15 market for a bit, and other athletes have been able to shine for a time. Props to Kirby Puckett, Adrian Peterson, Fran Tarkenton, Randy Moss and um … Joe Mauer? Alan Page? I’m sure I am forgetting some, because that’s pretty much the point.

In fact, just this May, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a story with the headline “Of the 100 most famous pro athletes in the world, none play in Minnesota.” The writer used the list compiled by ESPN that measured fame with a formula that factored in social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Google search activity and endorsement footprint, and there was nobody among the land of 10,000 lakes accounted for. Writer Michael Rand did include a consolation prize of his own, adding that “based on (Karl-Anthony) Towns’ increasing social media and endorsement presence, I’d guess he has the best chance of any current local athlete to make the list someday.”

But now Butler steps into that domain, certainly looking at his friend Wade at No. 24 and hoping for what could be, someday.

It’s not just sports, either. Now that Prince is gone, Bob Dylan probably would carry the flag for the Minneapolis team at some theoretical opening ceremony, though he was born in Duluth, raised in Hibbing and escaped for New York City in 1961. The Coen Brothers live in Hollywood themselves but still mine their heritage for laughs. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz was only reluctantly renowned, Jesse Ventura a sideshow, Andrew Zimmern a niche star and Walter Mondale responsible if uninspiring.

So we’ll keep an eye on Senator Al Franken, measuring his assurances that he has no presidential ambitions while understanding that circumstances may change, and he still could vault into greater prominence.

This is all to say that Jimmy Butler will need to be a very special player to overcome the smaller, lonelier, colder stage on which he now performs. If the spirit moves him, there’s always St. Paul’s Fitzgerald theater nearby, where Garrison Keillor once presided before abdicating his chair to Chris Thile.

Butler could raise his profile by sitting in with the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band or lending some harmonies to the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, singing “The Lord Will Make A Way” and wondering how he ended up here.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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