Dec 08, 2010 11:04PM
● By Anonymous
After cocaine and a .32 caliber revolver were found in his school locker, he served a 14-month stint at a maximum- security youth facility, the Ethan Allen School, in Wales, Wisconsin. Butler’s life thankfully took a turn for the better afterwards. Within a few years, he earned All- American basketball honors at the University of Connecticut, and then became a highly successful professional player. The 6-foot-7, 228- pound Butler, now 29, played two years for the Miami Heat, one of which under Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. Butler also spent a year with the Los Angeles Lakers and legendary coach Phil Jackson. But his career really took off when the Lakers traded him to Washington in 2005. Since then, he has played in two All-Star games. The Wizards thought so much of the Racine, Wis. native that they gave him a $45 million deal in 2006. As impressive as his success on the court is, it’s Butler’s commitment to reaching community youth, sharing his story, and teaching basketball that make him a professional’s professional.
What’s Up?: You spent a long time in a maximum-security youth facility. How did you end up there?
Caron Butler: I was in the midst of a lot of bad situations running with the wrong crowds.
WU: As a result of your incarceration, you spent more than a year away from organized basketball. How did you keep your skills from deteriorating? Did you play a lot of hoops?CB: That’s the time I really got involved in basketball. I really got after it. [Each day] I was incarcerated for 23 out of 24 hours. I got an hour of free time. You did all your hygiene and stuff. Then I played basketball for 20 minutes and it was back to the cell. WU: How did you overcome the odds and turn your life around after getting out prison?
CB: I knew I never wanted to go back there. I got closer to God when I was in there. I prayed a lot. When I got out, I did nothing but positive things. I worked at Burger King. I stayed away from the old neighborhood. I got an opportunity at basketball and to go on to college and never looked back.
WU: A lot of people are reluctant to talk about their troubled pasts. Why are you so open to revealing yours?
CB: I reflect on it all the time because I am always talking about it whether it’s with reporters or family members. I am always talking about my past and what I overcame. I want to share my story with the world—with other kids and other people.
WU: Your story captivated Oprah Winfrey. Are you proud of your appearance on her show in 2005 titled “How My Worst Moment Made Me a Star?”
CB: It was just a happy moment and a great moment in my career to go on a show that everyone gets an opportunity to see. It reached a lot of people and I got letters from people telling me, ‘You are an inspiration.’ It’s a great feeling.
WU: Do you make a particular effort to share your story with students and other young people?
CB: I love talking to the kids. I go back to schools in Racine. During last season, I went to a correctional facility and Wilson High School. I do a basketball classic in Virginia, so I go around and visit all the schools that participate. I also get a chance to visit a lot of schools in the D.C. area.
WU: How else do you reach kids?
CB: I also do a couple of camps every summer. I do one at Forestville’s Bishop McNamara, the Verizon Center, Connecticut’s Trinity College, and Hoop Magic in Chantilly.
WU: What is your message?
CB: I always preach the same thing; the three D’s: determination, dedication, and discipline. That’s what got me through adversity. I tell them my life story. Hopefully, they learn something and take something from it. I feel like I got a story to tell and I feel like the kids will adapt to the message. I try to get out there and put it out there as much as possible. The youth really accept it with open arms and really take something from it.
Update: In the time since this piece was originally published, Caron Butler has been traded from the Washington Wizards to the Dallas Mavericks.