Age: 35 (3-13-80)
Birthplace: Racine, Wisconsin
Residence: Los Angeles, California
College: University of Connecticut
Draft: 2002 First Round, 10th Pick (by Miami Heat)
Seasons in the League: 14
Current Team: Free agent
Twitter Account: @realtuffjuice
Instagram Account: @caronbutler
Caron Butler plays basketball with an edge. He trains mercilessly, studies intently, and plays tenaciously. His competitive drive is accompanied by a winning mindset and he approaches every situation with a positive attitude. He is receptive to his coaches and to his teammates, he is reliable on and off the court, and he constantly thinks about what he can do to benefit the team and his community. Butler defends the basket with ferocity, and challenges anyone who stands in his way. This commitment to aggressive yet passionate play led former-coach Eddie Jordan to give Butler the nickname “Tuff Juice.” It is this style of play that has solidified Butler as one of the most prominent forwards in the game today.
Though Butler now finds himself as a NBA-league veteran, the road to becoming a successful basketball player was not an easy one for him. He came from a troubled background, growing up on the streets of Racine, Wisconsin. He was a standout basketball player at Racine Park High School, but playing professional basketball and getting out of Racine did not even seem within the realm of possibility, especially considering the propensity he had for running into trouble with the law. However, Butler credits his trouble-ridden past for providing him with the motivation he needed to transform his life. He says one of the most defining moments was watching his mother’s eyes as he rode away in the back of a squad car; the last of fifteen times before he turned 15. After seeing her pain, he knew he had to change. With a renewed enthusiasm and hunger for success, Butler moved to Maine to attend Maine Central Institute. During his years there, Butler polished his game and earned a scholarship to play for Coach Jim Calhoun at the legendary Big East powerhouse, the University of Connecticut.
Before he even started a game for the Huskies, Butler demonstrated his competitive spirit as he worked out and lost 15 pounds off of his six foot seven inch frame in order to improve his agility. He showed up to camp ready to compete, and compete he did. As a freshman, Butler led the entire team in scoring and rebounding with 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The summer between his freshman and sophomore year at UConn, Butler helped lead the United States to a gold medal in one of the most prestigious international basketball tournaments, the 2001 FIBA World Championship for Young Men. He returned to UConn with an even greater competitive edge. Averaging 20.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, Butler led UConn to an outright Big East Championship in 2002. He was named Co-Big East Player of the Year and made Second-Team, All-American. His leadership and dominant play also helped the Huskies advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In 2016, the UConn Huskies Men’s Basketball team inducted Caron into the “Huskies of Honor,” where he became the 24th member.
Following a strong sophomore year at UConn, Butler declared for the 2002 NBA Draft. He was a lottery pick in the draft, selected tenth overall by the Miami Heat. During his rookie season, he caught the attention of the entire league. He averaged 15.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, which helped him earn Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors four times. As only the sixth player in league history to receive the honor four times or more, Butler joins the company of players such as Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. By the end of the season, Butler led the Heat in points (1,201), steals (134), minutes played (2,528), field goals made (429), field goals attempted (1,032), free throws made (309), and free throws attempted (375). He also held a team record of 65 games with double figure scoring. The league took note of his outstanding rookie campaign as he finished third in the NBA Rookie of the Year balloting.
Butler expected to build off of his tremendous rookie season, but he was forced to sit out of several games in the 2003-2004 Season due to injuries. He still managed to score double figures 33 times, and led the Heat to a playoff appearance. Starting only thirteen games for the Heat, he averaged 12.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.15 steals per game. He also grabbed the attention of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Butler became a crucial part of the blockbuster deal that moved Shaquille O’Neal from the West to the East. On July 14, 2004, Butler was traded along with Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and two draft picks to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Shaq. During Butler’s first stint in Los Angeles he started 77 games and averaged 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. His game caught fire in the latter half of the 2004-2005 Season as he upped his average to 21.9 points per game in the final 12 games of the season. He ended up among the league’s best again, ranking 40th in overall scoring, 23rd in steals, and 17th in free throws. Before the start of the 2005-2006 Season, Butler was traded along with Chucky Atkins to the Washington Wizards for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.
Arriving in Washington in 2005, Butler solidified himself as one of the league’s most dominant forwards. During his first season (2005-2006) in the District, Butler started 54 games for the Wizards. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of his inaugural campaign with the Wizards was the formation of the “Big 3.” Formed by Butler, Gilbert Arenas, and Antawn Jamison, the “Big 3” became the highest scoring trio in the NBA with 67.4 points per game, and helped the Wizards into the playoffs to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Butler averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and during Game 6 of the series, Butler had a playoff-high of 20 rebounds. Despite a valiant effort, the Wizards lost to the Cavaliers in six games.
After the grand visage of talent unveiled with the addition of Butler, the Wizards were eager for the start of the 2006-2007 Season. Butler continued his exemplary play averaging 19.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. In one of the most talked-about plays of the year, Butler had the game-winning dunk with 22 seconds remaining to give the Wizards a 99-98 victory over the New York Knicks on January 17, 2007. Butler was rewarded for his tremendous efforts when he was voted Eastern Conference Player of the Week. He was officially acknowledged as an All-Star by the league when he was selected as a reserve to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star team. Late in the season, Butler broke his hand attempting to block a shot, and as a result, was forced to sit out from post-season play. Without Butler, the Wizards were swept in four games by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before the start of the 2007-2008 Season, Butler’s quietly consistent leadership was recognized. Along with Antawn Jamison, Butler was selected as team co-captain. During that season, Butler became the first NBA player since LeBron James and Larry Hughes (in 2004-2005) to average at least 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals per game. He finished sixth in the league in free throw percentage and also had his first three career triple doubles. Although he was forced to sit out twelve games due to a hip-flexor injury, Butler’s incredible season was rewarded when he made his second consecutive All-Star appearance. Thankfully, Butler’s injury was not a factor when the Wizards again faced the Cavaliers in the playoffs. Butler started six games, averaging a team-high 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. During Game 5 of the series, he scored a career playoff high 32 points, and with 3.9 seconds left, made the game-winning shot. Unfortunately, the Wizards fell to the Cavs in six games.
During the 2008-2009 Season, Butler had a career high 20.8 points per game for the Wizards. Amidst a coaching change, Butler showed his consistency by continuing to rank among the league’s best. He ranked sixth in minutes per game, and eighteenth in steals. Butler again joined LeBron James as the only player during the season to average at least 20 points, six rebounds, and four assists per game.
Butler and the Wizards began the 2009-2010 Season under newly acquired coach Flip Saunders. Halfway through the 2009-2010 Season, Butler was traded to the Dallas Mavericks as part of a seven player trade. The Mavericks acquired Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson from the Wizards in exchange for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton, and Quinton Ross. The acquisition of Butler, Haywood, and Stevenson made Dallas a top contender in the Western Conference. “The trade makes us significantly better,” said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Cuban was right. The first 29 games of the 2010-2011 season found the Mavericks as an early contender to make a run at an NBA title behind a steady 15 points per night from Butler, until he suffered a severe injury to his patellar tendon, sidelining him for the rest of the season.
As soon as the doctors gave him the go ahead to begin rehab he was back in the gym, but it was his leadership while on the bench that shows the true character of Caron Butler. What makes Butler a great asset to any squad is his team first mentality, exemplified in this quote which he Tweeted right before he went into surgery, “Championship! Remember that fans that's what it’s about and we have what it takes in that locker room to get it done, I’ll be 100 percent in no time, and I will be the biggest supporter on the sideline until healthy thanks for the support again I'm going in.”
Following his season ending injury the Mavericks dedicated their 2011 playoff run to Butler and went on to win the NBA Championship. Down but certainly not out Butler continued to rehab and following the 2011 season Butler signed a three year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, sending him back to the city where he played in 2004-2005 as a member of the Lakers.
Former Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said of Butler, "He's our best dresser, he doesn't miss a practice, he doesn't complain and really he's been our most consistent guy.''
Through the shortened season, Butler rose to the occasion and shared the court with fellow NBA stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups. Always the leader on the court, Butler started at small forward for the Clippers for two seasons before a busy offseason saw him traded alongside teammate Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team deal before eventually being traded to his hometown Milwaukee Bucks in late August.
Butler was welcomed to Milwaukee in an emotional press conference at his old high school in Racine, Wisconsin. With many of his family members in attendance, Butler stressed how excited he was to return home and get the Bucks back in the playoffs for the second straight year. Bucks head coach Larry Drew and general manager John Hammond were in attendance and praised both the character and ability that Caron brings to the team. “In all the people I spoke to before the trade, I got nothing but rave reviews about him. I told John we got to do everything we can to make this happen,” said coach Drew.
Butler battled injuries during his time with the Bucks and the team struggled, falling far behind in the standings early in the year. In March, championship contenders began lining up to pick up the veteran Butler, hoping to add his scoring and leadership to help aid title runs. Butler decided to join the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, and played his final 22 games of the season there.
Butler shot 44 percent from three-point range with the Thunder and earned crunch time minutes through the Thunder’s run to the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder came up short against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs, pushing the series to six games despite being down star forward Serge Ibaka for games one and two.
Butler took his time to consider his options when the season ended and eventually chose to find a new challenge as he signed with the Detroit Pistons. He reunited in Detroit with Stan Van Gundy, who coached Butler during his second season in Miami. Butler was tasked with being a leader to the young and talented Pistons squad that dealt with a lot of turnover. As a seasoned NBA professional, Butler provided both on and off-the-court leadership to his less experienced teammates including a 38% three-point field goal percentage off the bench.
In July of 2015, Butler was traded to the Sacramento Kings where he offers as a strong veteran presence, providing leadership to a young roster of talent.
Besides being a star player, Butler is also a dedicated member of the community. He is extremely active with community organizations that specialize in youth outreach. He enjoys using his personal experience to motivate kids to pursue their dreams. In 2005, Butler started visiting incarcerated kids at the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center, located outside of the District in order to share his life story and to provide the kids with support and encouragement. He also helped organize the community outreach event, “Urban Dialogue: Stop the Violence,” in his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin.
Butler demonstrated his steadfast commitment to bettering his hometown, when he chose to sponsor the “Cops N’ Kids” Legacy Project. The unique initiative strives to bring new life into the community by encouraging communication and strong relationships between kids and law enforcement officers. Police officers distribute books to local youth and have a Reading Center where youth can read, borrow books, use computers, and receive one-on-one tutoring. Butler also teamed up with the Salvation Army and Wal-Mart to sponsor a program called the “Bike Brigade.” The “Bike Brigade” distributes brand new bikes and helmets to youth in Racine and in DC; to date, he has helped gift over 2,500 bikes. Butler created his own program “Caron’s Coats for Kids” which distributes coats, hats, and gloves to youth in both Racine and in Washington, DC. In the summer of 2009, Butler organized “Caron’s 3D Summer Explosion,” a summer-long program that included events almost every weekend for kids. He organized a day of service, a charity basketball game, a free basketball clinic, his annual Bike Brigade, as well as a back-to-school supply drive for kids in the area. In July, 2012 Butler continued to better his hometown of Racine by donating 200,000 dollars to the local United Way, George Bray Center, Juneteenth Foundation and YMCA organizations.
However, Butler does not only want to better the communities of Racine and DC, he strives to improve communities and the quality of life everywhere. In 2007, he joined Tobacco Free Families and helped to launch the Quit Smoking Campaign. He teamed with DC United player Facundo Erpen as well as the DC City Council to announce the revolutionary 10 million dollar tobacco prevention and cessation campaign. During that same year, he and his wife, Andrea, were also given the 2007 Conversation Changers Award by the DC Campaign to prevent teenage pregnancy. In 2008, Butler took his dedication to service across the world to Johannesburg, South Africa, as a part of the NBA without Borders delegation. Along with several other players, he visited schools, conducted basketball clinics, and talked with local youth about the importance of following dreams and making good decisions In his spare time, Butler also visits injured soldiers at the Walter Reed Medical Center in DC.
In recognition of his unmatched dedication to the community, the City of Racine proclaimed June 8, 2007, “Caron Butler Day.” The NBA also presented Butler with the NBA Community Assist Award. In 2008, the National Congress of Black Women awarded Butler the “Good Brother Award.” Most recently, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell proclaimed July 20, 2009, “Caron Butler Day.” The Connecticut Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce also named Butler the 2009 Role Model of the Year.
In October of 2015, Butler released his first book, Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA, where he shares his incredible journey from the streets of Racine to success in the NBA. From a young gang member and drug dealer to a dedicated community leader, accomplished professional athlete, burgeoning businessman and devoted philanthropist, Butler overcame adversity to defy all odds.
Above all else, Butler is a proud father and dedicated husband. His motto is “family first” and exemplifies that though his unwavering commitment to his wife Andrea and three daughters with Andrea, Mia, Ava and Gia and two children Camary and Caron Jr. from a previous relationship.
His friend, former UConn teammate and current UConn head basketball coach Kevin Ollie said it best, “Caron has gotten up and overcome adversity, not only to become a great basketball player, but become a great person. When you go through certain things, it’s about how you give and how you step forward and how you grow. It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you are.”