Caron Butler never planned to be Yoda with a Dualshock. For years—check that, a freaking decade—he barely played video games. But oh, what an injury can do.
Butler spending the first few months of the NBA season helping the Dallas Mavericks on the court, hardly giving a passing thought to the PlayStation 3 tucked away in his locker. Then in January, he injured his knee, and since limping players don’t cut it in the Association, the 30-year-old swingman started polishing his digital game, logging serious minutes with NBA 2K11. He wasn’t the locker room gaming king (that honor goes to Jason Terry), but younger teammates like Roddy Beaubois and Ian Mahinmi started crowding around, and before he knew it, Butler was giving sporadic tutorials on zone defense and ball movement. Is it any coincidence, then, that Dallas went from average to championship-caliber, then rocked LeSham and the Miami Heat in six games to win the NBA title? Well, yeah, it probably is. But who says you can’t learn anything from your PlayStation? Because Caron Butler will tell you otherwise.
Complex: First of all, congratulations on the NBA chip. Even hurt, you must have been stoked.
Caron Butler: Thanks. It was nice to win, and I’m actually doing real good now, too. I’m probably about a week away from being completely healthy. But I’ll tell you, if we would have went to a Game 7 against the Heat, I think I would have played. It was really close.
We can only imagine how badly you wanted to be playing.It was tough not being on the court. Obviously, we finished and we was the best team in the NBA. It was frustrating on the sideline, but I’ve done more work behind the scenes and on the sideline.
Plus you had some time to play video games, right?
Yeah. When I had down time, I liked playing NBA 2K11. I like how they keep the updates and whatnot, and it’s fun playing with yourself; it’s fun checking yourself in and out of the game. Me, Jason Terry, and some of the other guys—especially the younger guys—got into it.
How did it become a teaching tool?
It’s such a real reflection of how players play. You can really tap into guys’ strengths and weaknesses, so you could sometimes show guys how the game is played. Stuff like how this is a team game, and all the teams play different. This team right here [Dallas], we pass the ball a lot. We’ve got shooters. Other teams [in NBA 2K11], you have to go off with one guy to go get 60 points.
So how true-to-life is NBA 2K11? What team or player shows the accuracy the most?
I saw it a couple of times, specially with Orlando. Dwight [Howard] was beasting down there. You have to keep throwing that thing to him, because he gets monster points and rebounds, and the Magic base their offense all around him. You see the difference between that team and others, where you’ll have five guys scoring 10-plus points.The other team was the Hornets with Chris Paul. With him being the point guard, he’s getting into the seams, doing everything, going past everybody, almost being a one-man team. Just like in real life.
We’re guessing you don’t buy any talk that some guys, like Kobe Bryant, get gift ratings every year?
I think they got a great assessment of what he does. Numbers don’t lie. If anybody ever says Kobe shouldn’t get a high rating, tell them to Google Kobe. Google Dirk. Google LeBron. Google those guys, then go back to the game and stop complaining.
So what’s the setup like? Where and when did you guys play?
We have our own systems in the locker room. We all have PS3s at every locker, so we have the opportunity to play video games in the locker. It’s not in the locker room like where all the press are gonna be, though. It’s in our own private section.
Sounds awesome. The Dallas locker room must be gaming crazy then, right?
You know how you come in and you have to get taped for practice? Well, if you come in early and get treatment, treatment may only last like 10-15 minutes. So if other guys come in, you link up and play a game. Then after practice, you usually play a while more.
Who are the biggest Maverick gamers?
Hmm. I’d say Jason Terry and J.J. Barea. Tyson Chandler plays, too, and he might bring one of his cousins or godchildren in there to game. And the young kids, Dominique Jones and Roddy Beaubois. Roddy—now he plays a lot. But one guy doesn’t. Dirk, I ain’t seen him play no video games.
That’s intense. Where does Caron Butler rank in the pecking order?
Jason Terry’s the best. His game is the most serious. I think he spends the most time on his PS3, and he’s really a video game head all the way around. Me, I’m not even close. Against Jet, I probably stay close for a half, then he turns up the heat. Guys like Jet, J.J., Roddy, they got their special teams, they do their substitutions. I let automatic subs go. Overall, I’m just getting back into video games.
Just getting back into it? Where you been?
I used to play a lot when I was little, but by high school it was too time-consuming. We’re always traveling, playing AAU basketball. You’re playing like three, four games a day, so video games was something that we didn’t have time to do.
Tell us about gaming when you were little. What was you thing?
I was a Nintendo guy, and it wasn’t always sports games. It was Duck Hunt. And Super Mario Bros. was always my favorite. The original one was something I was always drawn to. And I had a thing for Pac-Man, too. I think I was three years old when the old-school Nintendo came out. And it was just Nintendo, or nothing.
Games sure have changed these days, haven’t they?
You think back to the days of Double Dribble and then you see it now. Especially with NBA 2K11, I’m just wondering if like somebody sits back and watches all your mannerisms over the course of the season. It’s amazing; I look at the rooks, even Dominique Jones [from Dallas]. He hasn’t played much, but they have everything about him—his shot, his tattoos. I’m truly a fan of just the work of whoever does that stuff. They did a great job.
Butler's likeness in NBA 2K11
Do you miss those days?
Those are my games. Back in the day, if anybody gathered around and watched me playing Pac-Man and Mario, I’d shut it down. I’ll still flip the screen on you in Pac-Man. I just need the actual Atari joystick, and it’s all over. And Mario, I’d just get on the board and fly through, or I’d go jump on that turtle for extra lives. I was a guy who could always save the princess. I’d just run through the boards and what I had to do.
You think you’ll ever leave that time behind and step into the modern age? You know, go all Call of Duty and Battlefield-crazy?
Maybe eventually. My son, Caron Jr., has Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. But me, I watch right now. I don’t even have a gamertag or PSN name or anything. I think there will be a point when I play more, when I have time. But I like to be good. I don’t like to be average. I can’t stand around and be somebody’s whipping boy. I gotta be good like I was with Pac-Man.