The NBA is full of men who have overcome extreme obstacles to reach their goal and become successful at what they do.
Some were homeless, many didn’t have parents who stuck around in their lives, and a fair few recovered from what others thought were career-ending injuries.
But imagine a kid who started out his young life as a drug dealer, and was arrested over a dozen times. What are his chances for success? What would he become in life?
What are his chances for success? Not very high at all, but that’s what makes Caron Butler’s story even more impressive.
Butler grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, 20 or so miles away from Milwaukee, in Racine, Wisconsin. Caron didn’t have the best start at life, that much can be said. His father had not stuck around, so his mother, Mattie Paden, was the sole provider for their family. Mattie often had to work two jobs just to put food on the table.
By the time Caron was twelve years of age, he was already hanging around street corners, dealing illegal drugs to a host of shady characters. Of course, just because Caron was 12 years old, didn’t mean he was above the law, and by his 15th birthday, Butler had been arrested a whopping 15 times. Due to the number of arrests and his previous records, Butler was sentenced to one year in a maximum security detention center for juveniles.
“It was survival. People were getting raped. You’ve got murderers in there. It was a bad environment.” – Caron Butler
It was during this long stay in detention that Caron discovered his passion for basketball. The turning point for Butler was during a two week stay in solitary confinement, where he finally decided to turn his life around onto the correct path.
Once released, Caron quickly got a job at a local Burger King, and was finally earning an honest living for himself and his family.He had finally forgotten about his past life. But just as Butler had gotten his life back together, the SWAT team intervened.
On January 22nd, 1998, a SWAT team raided Caron Butler’s house, with a search warrant. Someone had told police that they had allegedly bought drugs from the property, despite Caron not being involved with drugs whatsoever for over a year. If found guilty, Caron would be facing a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Rick Geller was the arresting officer that day during the raid. Luckily for Caron, and us NBA fans, Rick was level-headed enough to have a chat with Butler about the situation, and decided that Caron was completely innocent.
Since that fateful day, things only got better for Butler. He quickly received a full scholarship to the University of Connecticut, where he averaged 18 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2 steals a game. His skillset had impressed enough NBA scouts to be drafted 10th overall by the Miami Heat in the 2002 NBA Draft. Caron broke down in tears, hugging his mother, who had been by his side this entire time when his name was called by then-Commissioner David Stern.
Butler had a very impressive start to his young career, posting rookie averages of 15 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals a game for the Heat, unfortunately losing the Rookie of the Year award to Amar’e Stoudemire.
He was traded around, playing for the Lakers and the Wizards, where he played the best basketball of his career, being named a 2-time All-Star. In the 2010 NBA season, Caron was traded from Washington to Dallas, who were in need of a gritty supporting scorer, which is exactly what Butler provided.
Unfortunately for Caron however, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2010-2011 season, which put him on the shelf for the rest of the regular season. As he has proven many times before though, Caron wouldn’t be hindered by this, and rehabbed his injury quick enough to make it back on the roster for the Maverick’s playoff run that year, and as we all know, Butler, Nowitzki, Terry and the rest of the squad pulled off a massive upset that year, defeating the newly-formed Miami Heat in 6 games to win their first NBA title.
Butler was traded to the Clippers after that magical run, but received a standing ovation from Rick Carlisle, Mark Cuban and the Mavericks’ fans when he faced his former team, also receiving his championship ring in the process.
Since the injury, Butler hasn’t quite been the same player he once was, bouncing around the league as a veteran to provide leadership off the bench for young NBA teams such as the Thunder, Pistons and recently the Kings.
Caron isn’t currently on an NBA roster at the moment, but I’m certain many a team could use Butler’s dedication, experience, wisdom, and locker room presence as an example to their young stars.