On tonight’s 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter, NBA star Jimmy Butler spends the day with a 16-year-old Wisconsin boy in the final installment of the 2018 ESPN “My Wish” Series. Since 2006, ESPN has partnered with Make-A-Wish® to fulfill 63 sports-themed wishes for children with critical illnesses.
Butler, who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, granted the wish of Ethan Whitney of Hortonville, Wis., who is in treatment for B-cell Lymphoma. And according to Fernando Calderon, who produced the segment for ESPN Features, Butler was “awesome” during the process.
“It had originally been scheduled for Ethan to do the meetup with Jimmy in early June, but he had some complications that pushed everything back and Jimmy was going to Europe until late June,” said Calderon, who joined ESPN in 2014 and was producing his first “My Wish” feature. “So actually they didn’t think it was going to happen because it didn’t seem it was going to match up time-wise.
“But Jimmy really wanted it to happen and he was the one that helped keep this alive in terms of making sure Ethan got his wish.”
With the shoot moved into late June, Calderon and series host Chris Connelly headed to Wisconsin to interview Ethan and his family and to shoot the “reveal,” a part of every “My Wish” feature when the subject learns the wish is being granted.
In Ethan’s case, the reveal was shot at a robotics company where his father works and where Ethan has had some internships. He thought he was giving a guided tour but instead was surprised when a robotic arm brought an iPad to him and Butler’s prerecorded message was played for him.
Then it was off to Los Angeles, where Butler and Ethan met and spent a day together shooting hoops, playing airsoft and dominoes and just hanging out.
“Jimmy was pretty awesome about giving us just about his whole day,” said Calderon. “His biggest concern was the he wanted to make it feel like it was genuine. He never wanted anything to be forced and just for the cameras. So it’s literally a day of hanging out in Los Angeles and Ethan having fun with his favorite athlete.”