Jimmy Butler had no idea quite how popular he really is until he gave out his phone number.
When Jimmy Butler was introduced as the newest member of the Timberwolves in June, he decided to give out his phone number during the press conference.
In a new SI story on Butler, Lee Jenkins talked with the three-time All-Star about his decision to share his number with the world and what it was like for his close friend Ifeanyi Koggu, who handles Butler's business phone.
Here's the short version: Butler got a staggering 10,000 texts, 700 calls and 500 Facetimes in seven hours.
On the eve of his introductory press conference in Minnesota, Butler stewed over reports claiming he had been a stormy presence and abrasive leader in Chicago, the kind of accusation big-market franchises traditionally leak about exiled alphas after mindless trades. “I ought to go out there tomorrow and be like, ‘If you got a problem, here’s my number, call me,’” Butler vented. Ifeanyi Koggu, a close friend who handles Butler’s business phone, laughed nervously. “That would be funny,” Koggu replied, “but not a good idea.” Butler commandeered the iPhone 7 in their suite at the Loews the next morning and changed the outgoing voice-mail message from an automated greeting to a personal one. “Jimmy Butler, sorry I couldn’t get to the phone, but leave your name and number and I’ll hit you back. If you got any beef, definitely leave a message.” During his presser at Mall of America, in front of 2,500 hungry souls waiting on the second coming of Kevin Garnett, Butler broadcast the digits to the world.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” he began. “But with that being said, my phone is in my back pocket. Whoever has anything to say to me, feel free: 773-899-6071.” The phone was not actually in Butler’s back pocket. It was in the front pocket of Koggu’s jeans. “Once he got to the last digit, I could feel my hip vibrate,” Koggu recalls. “And it didn’t stop.” Within five minutes, the mailbox was full, and within 10, he couldn’t answer a call if he tried. “There were too many coming in at the same time,” Koggu explains. “Calls and texts, but also cameras popping up with Facetime requests. You could never get to the main screen.” The phone became too hot to hold, so Koggu shut it down before restarting it. On a private plane to Los Angeles, Butler chatted with two fans on Facetime, including a boy who spent 45 seconds running around his house hollering for his older brother. Then the device froze for good.
After the plane landed at Van Nuys Airport, Koggu rushed to a Verizon Wireless store in Westlake Village where bewildered employees eyed the bleating gadget as if it were 1985. They reported that the phone had received more than 10,000 texts, 700 calls and 500 Facetimes in a seven-hour span. Butler was expecting a couple hundred, max. “I’m moving you up in line because we need to change your number,” a manager told Koggu. “But first I have to ask, ‘Why is this happening?’” Koggu thought about his funny, edgy and excitable friend who once told Derrick Rose, “Don’t throw me the ball because I don’t want to f--- up,” and is now recognizable enough to scramble a cell simply by saying the number out loud. “Man,” Koggu told the Verizon guy, “it’s a long story.”
Butler wasn't the only person whose phone blew up after this stunt though.
A man in Evanston, Ill., whose number was one digit off from Butler's received his own share of calls, Facetimes and texts from fans trying to reach the former Chicago Bull.
While the phone traffic was annoying for the Evanston resident, it was nothing compared to what Butler had to deal with. Be sure to read Jenkins's entire feature on Butler either online or in this week's NBA preview issue of Sports Illustrated.