It’s been a long and successful career for Milwaukee Bucks forward Caron Butler. Born in Racine, Wis. he has moved on from his trials and tribulations. The 12-year NBA veteran has now come full circle playing for his home state Bucks. He's an NBA champion and after all his accomplishments on the court, Butler will eventually delve into ownership and management in basketball in his post-playing career.
We caught up with Butler to talk about his early life growing up in Racine, his NBA career, and his future goals after the NBA.
Written by Rafael Canton (@RafelitoC7)
How did basketball serve as an escape for you from some of your negative experiences growing up?
Basketball was the outlet for me. I had played other sports. I didn’t really have a passion or love for anything besides being out in the streets and being amongst my friends and running with the crowds at the wrong time. Back then, basketball was something that served as a magnet that took me away from that environment.
You said you never wanted to hurt your mother and the people who were in your corner ever again after being arrested.
When I went through all that adversity and everything. The people that invest the most in you whether it’s your mother, your grandmother—I was raised by women. Never knew who my father was, never had that male figure in my life that was positive so they raised me. For them to see me at my worst, and to see me thinking of myself as a complete failure which I was, it was tough. I always vowed to myself to never let them see me like that again.
What was the process you experienced when going back to high school after being incarcerated?
The main thing about my high school situation was when I got incarcerated, I wasn’t allowed back in to Racine school district. So I had to go and use my other name. Everyone knows me as Caron Butler, but I had to go and use my official government name which is James Butler and that’s how I went to Gateway Technical College. I enrolled in class and had to go through a bunch of deans to get back into Unified. I showed them documents that I was already attending community college and that I could be in that environment. I was pulled out of class a lot and was searched randomly. I was under a magnifying glass once I got back into Unified and that was a hard process.
Only after playing a year of high school ball at Park high school, I had to go to prep school for two years. That took a lot to move from Racine, Wisconsin to Maine Central.
I didn’t really have a passion or love for anything besides being out in the streets and being amongst my friends and running with the crowds at the wrong time. Back then, basketball was something that served as a magnet that took me away from that environment.
What was the college recruiting process like?
It was amazing because I wasn’t really getting recruited because of my record and what I been through. I was the number one prep basketball player in the country and UConn and Jim Calhoun was one of the major universities that took a chance on me. He came out to Racine, Wisconsin and came to the gym that I was working out at. He saw me and he said
“I really want you. I want you to come to Connecticut, we’re a family oriented University. We’ll take care of you there. We care about our team and we’re a family.” That was something that I really wanted to be a part of.
How do you look back on your experience at UConn?
Not only having a family oriented university like the university of Connecticut, but having good people around me as well. To have big brothers like a Donyell Marshall, Kevin Ollie, Ray Allen, and Khalid El-Amin. Guys that came back and were serious about developing guys and giving us information that we couldn’t get unless we experienced it. They gave us priceless information and put us under their wing and showed us the ropes. Ray Allen did a great job for me and coach Calhoun was always in my ear. He was that male figure in my life and guide me through. It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
Your rookie year in Miami was tough with the team losing 57 games. What did you learn from that experience?
It was tough. They gave me an opportunity to come into my own so to speak and Pat Riley and Stan Van Gundy really believing in me pushing me to be the best that I possibly can. I had a great time doing it. I learned a lot about professionalism on and off the court. How to conduct myself, how to work on my consistency, and I learned a lot of great quotes. I learned a lot of things about the game of basketball under Pat Riley’s wing and that determination and will that I learned are the reason why I’ve been successful at that level.
The next season, the team took major steps adding Dwyane Wade and Lamar Odom. What was that year like?
I felt really great about that team. I thought we were young in all the right areas. I thought we had a chemistry that was second to none. I’ve been on a lot of great teams since then, but it was something extremely special about that team that we had.
How did it feel getting traded to the Lakers in that big deal involving Shaquille O'Neal:
It was a huge shock getting traded for the first time in my career and then what was so great about the situation was getting traded to a city like Los Angeles where the tradition is so rich with the Lakers. Playing alongside a guy like Kobe Bryant and learning so much from him. I learned a lot on the fly and I knew that I was going to be an asset and have a great career after playing along with Kobe and having the success that I had playing with him.
I was looking forward to having my next moment of playing at a high level on my own team and that’s what happened in Washington.
It must've been such a unique experience playing with such a unique cast of characters in Washington.
My thing was that I always tried to practice good habits and stay consistent with the stuff that I learned along the way from other great and good players. I took a little bit from everyone that I ever played with. I just tried to put it all together and let it come out the way that I wanted it to come out.
I think that JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, they just accepted that and they understood what type of person I was. I had the serious approach, Antawn Jamison had the serious approach. Gilbert Arenas was the joker and everybody loved Gilbert because he had something funny to do. We kept a balance of the personalities in the locker room and that’s what was so good about the team.