Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler and the Jordan Brand have mutually agreed to part ways, bringing Butler's multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deal with the company to an end 10 months before its original Sept. 30, 2020, expiration date, industry sources have confirmed.
The split makes the four-time All-Star and four-time all-defensive wing the highest-profile sneaker free agent across the league. Butler is expected to begin discussions with multiple brands toward negotiating a new multiyear endorsement deal that would begin this season, potentially in advance of All-Star Weekend.
An unheralded final draft pick of the 2011 first round, Butler had initially signed a shoe deal with Adidas as a Chicago Bulls rookie. Three seasons later, he took a reported 75% pay cut to instead sign with Jordan Brand; he would go on to be named the NBA's Most Improved Player and become a first-time All-Star by the end of the 2014-15 season.
During his time with Jordan Brand, Butler could often be seen supporting its annual Air Jordan model and the recent SuperFly, Supreme Elevation and Diamond team models. The brand had made a variety of player-exclusive colorways of its latest sneakers for Butler, in addition to a special PE edition of the Retro 10, his favorite Air Jordan model.
During that span, he was incorporated into global campaigns from time to time. A limited apparel collection featuring his "Jimmy Buckets" moniker and logo on T-shirts and hats was released in Chicago during the spring of 2016, along with a limited edition, red and black Air Jordan 29 Low.
Competing brands are just now learning of Butler's sudden sneaker free-agent status, but are expected to take strong interest in signing him to be a featured endorser, according to industry sources.
In the past two years, both Puma and New Balance have looked to sign All-Star-level and emerging players as part of their relaunch efforts in the NBA and in releasing new basketball sneakers. Dwyane Wade recently signed Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell to his Way of Wade sub-brand with Li-Ning, providing the Heat icon with ongoing signature shoe line with visibility now that he's retired from the NBA.
It remains to be seen if Wade would have interest in pursuing Butler to also support his sneaker line with the same franchise Wade helped lead to all three of its NBA championships. Wade had helped to provide feedback to Butler about the Heat franchise as he navigated unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career earlier this summer.
"He just told me how he could see me being a part of the organization, and a part of the culture," Butler told ESPN's Rachel Nichols.
After officially joining Miami via sign-and-trade, Butler has found early success with his new franchise, with the Heat currently touting a top-three record in the Eastern Conference through the opening three months of the regular season.
Through 29 games, Butler is averaging 20.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. He was named the East's Player of the Week after averaging 27.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists during the opening week of December.
"You're talking about an organization that you have to work in order to survive here -- every single day, every second of every day, everything that you do is championship-caliber," Butler said. "And it's to the end goal of winning a championship, and everybody's built like that here. ... So I guess it is a great fit."
Now, Butler will begin discussions with athletic companies as he similarly looks for a great fit with a new brand and a new endorsement deal partnership.