NBA

How Caron Butler Went From 12-Year-Old Drug Dealer to NBA All-Star

22 January 2010: Washington Wizards forward Caron Butler (3) in action against the Miami Heat at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The Heat defeated the Wizards 112-88.
Mark Goldman/Getty Images

Growing up, Caron Butler looked like he was going to spend most of his life behind bars. Against all the odds, he managed to turn his life around and have a prosperous NBA career. His story is one of the most incredible rises to the NBA stardom ever. 

Butler grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, where he had an extremely rough upbringing. A the time, Racine had one of the highest crime rates in the state. He was brought up by his hard-working single mother, who had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Due to the environment around him, a young Butler turned to drug dealing to make ends meet.

“My role models were on the streets breaking the law. That’s what I was exposed to—the lifestyle I tried to emulate.”

Caron Butler, per grow.acorns.com

Butler purchased his first firearm and began and dealing drugs before his 13th birthday. He was part of a gang and witnessed multiple murders.

 Butler was arrested 15 times before the age of 15. These were all minor offenses, so he had not been thrown in jail. This was until he was arrested at his high school, for possession of cocaine and a gun. He was sent to juvenile prison. To make matters even worse, he found himself in solitary confinement after a fight with another inmate. It looked like rock bottom for Butler, and it seemed like this was going to be his future.

Butler’s Turning Point

 It was at this point that Butler’s life started to turn around, starting with the birth of his daughter while he was still 15. In his time in solitary, he turned to the bible and prayed often. He also played basketball as much as possible. He soon managed to get released from prison but faced further obstacles when he was not allowed to enroll in schools in his district. To get around this, Butler applied to Gateway Technical College under his official government name James Butler, to prove to his high school that he had changed for the better. After being allowed back to his hometown high school, Racine Park, he immediately turned to their basketball team. 

In his first season for Racine Park, he averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. These were extremely impressive numbers, which garnered the attention of Maine Central Institute. It was here that Butler crept onto scouts radars. He eventually committed to the University of Connecticut. 

Butler impressed during his time at UCONN, claiming the Big East co-player of the year and the Big East tournament MVP in his sophomore year. He then declared for the 2002 NBA draft, where he was selected with the 10th pick by the Miami Heat.

Butler in the NBA

After being traded to the Lakers, Butler finally found a home in his fourth season when he landed with the Washington Wizards. During his spell in DC, Butler was named an all-star twice, in 2007 and 2008. He averaged over 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the two seasons. He was then traded to Dallas towards the end of the 2010 season. 

In his first full season as a Maverick in 2011, Butler was restricted to just 29 games, and did not see any action in the playoffs. The Mavericks wound up winning the championship, and he did receive his championship ring. This meant that Butler had gone from juvenile felon to the pinnacle of basketball accomplishments. 

 He departed next season for the Clippers, helping to lead them to the playoffs in back to back years. In his third season, he was demoted to the bench for the first time in his career, which was the first marker that his career was nearing its end. He bounced around the Bucks, Thunder, Pistons, and Kings, before eventually announcing his retirement. 

Caron Butler will forever be remembered for overcoming all odds to reach the NBA. He easily could have spent his entire life behind bars.  However after making one too many mistakes as a teenager, his decision to change his behavior completely altered the course of his life. He leaves basketball behind as an NBA champion and a two-time all-star. He is now enjoying a much better life than what it would have been if he continued going down the wrong path. 

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