“Tough-Bucket” [/təf/ -/ˈbəkət/]

A phrase often associated with a player making a crafty move and scoring a basket that is often perceived as impossible to pull off.

Now, how does that correlate to Caron Butler? Everything you could’ve ever imagined..

Growing up in the inner streets of West Side Racine, Wisconsin, Caron Butler often imitated the phrase through life’s impenetrable and perplexing obstacles relatively similar to how he crosses up and finishes on opponents in his day job. Nobody ever said life would be easy, especially for Caron, but the 14-year vet understood from an early age that in order to get past the harsh realities of life, you have to be ready to go through whatever the world throws at you.

From the drug-infested streets of Racine to the bright lights of the NBA, Caron seen it all and been through it all and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The Source caught up with Caron during his preseason run to talk about his new book titled Tuff Juice, his new home in Sacramento with the Kings and his hand in helping unite African American communities. Check it out below:

So, new location and team. What’s your mind state coming into the upcoming season?

Caron Butler: We have a great group of guys and I am excited about the opportunity. I’m just really excited to be playing with this team and having a chance to change the culture here in Sacramento and win games.

So the talk of the town is largely due to the new guys you have over in Sacramento from Rondo to the new rookie phenom Willie Cauley-Stein. In your words, how do you see the team moving forward with the additional new pieces? 

Caron Butler: I see it going into the right direction. Here, you have the right group of guys that are willing to sacrifice and do the right things in order to win and for the culture to change. With Willie, Demarcus and the rest of the young guys here, the future’s looking bright.

Coming in as the “OG” of the team, what’s kind of the role you see yourself playing as the season vastly approaches? 

Caron Butler: Being a leader, keeping a balance in the locker and being kind of the shoulder to lean on while all being able to provide. We are going to see alot of different line-ups this season because George Karl is not your conventional coach, you may see big or small lineups so you have to be ready.

Okay, so let’s make a transition to talk about your new book “Tuff Juice”. Your book highlights your upbringing in the drug-infested streets of Racine, Wisconsin to your present days in the league. Why did you decide now was the time to put out an autobiography? 

Caron Butler: Over the years we always had the material stemming from ’07-08’. I just wasn’t too sure if I was comfortable talking about everything back then. Over the years, friends, family and the agency wanted me to talk about those things, but reflecting over those experiences and fame brought back memories that I wasn’t ready to visit again. When you revisit those memories you bring back emotions that you’re not ready to deal with, but it got to a point in my life that I was comfortable talking about it and it became therapeutic.

How was your family taking to you going backwards to relive the story? 

Caron Butler: They are the reason that I even did it because they were so supportive. From my mom, grandmother, aunts to everyone, they were like why not? Like, why not use your platform for something great. There are so many people going through trying times, it’s like why wouldn’t I use my platform to help inspire. There are so many athletes that are not using their platforms and I feel like we can utilize our platforms to help our following.

Agreed. I think that’s something more athletes can do. Sometimes, I don’t think NBA players and athletes alike understand the type of reach they have on these platforms. So moving forward, it’s been about 20 years since you’ve been incarcerated. If you could go back, what would be the advice you would give the younger self of Caron Butler?

Caron Butler: The thing I always put out there is always stay dedicated and determined. Seeing is believing and you are what your exposed to. Don’t be limited to the confines of your environment. Always expose yourself to more because your capable of doing anything.

So that leads us into the next question. For the kid out there going through similar struggles and looking for a way out of their situation, what is your advice?

Caron Butler: Don’t ever give up and you can accomplish anything. Too often do we get discouraged when we can’t do something or accomplish things. In this book, clearly there were obstacles and things that could have completely derailed me, but with my family by my side, I stayed positive and things started to open up for me.

So your book talks about your childhood back in Racine. When was the last time you went back home?

Caron Butler: I’m in Racine every summer, I do community work back home and I partnered with United Way and the YMCA . This has been something I been doing since forever and nowadays I get praise and recognition because of the book, but this is something I’ve done regardless if the cameras are on me.

So looking back on your road, what’s the one thing you learned about yourself?

Caron Butler: The one thing I’ve learned is that I’m extremely resilient and grateful. I’m humble without boundaries because I know it could have went the other day. When I speak to these kids, I get emotional and wish my dudes that are no longer here with us were here to see this.

So recently you were at the White House for the Champions for Change event, how was that experience coming there to speak?

Caron: It was one of the best experiences of my life. I mean, I was invited to the White House before when I was on the champion Dallas Mavericks squad back in 2011, but being invited for your platform is a little different and special because you are changing lives. I felt the energy in the room and to see all these young entrepreneurs in the building was a special feeling and night.

Absolutely. To see all these young entrepreneurs doing so many successful things was probably extraordinary. Did they inspire you also? 

Caron Butler: Heck yea. It makes you feel good. All the time you go out and do things and wonder if you are doing the right thing and to see people applaud you and show support is a great thing.

So speak more about your community outreach, where do you see your community work going?

Caron Butler: Just doing more community work and bringing the community together. We shouldn’t have to wait for a situation like Ferguson to happen. With my contacts, I try and bring people from all different walks of life together from the NAACP to doctors and lawyers. I’m just trying to just bring people together to help inspire our youth and find new initiatives that can reflect the identities of the kids and people now.

So you just talked about the community and not waiting for another “Ferguson” to happen before making a change. What are some things you are doing to bring together the African American Community?

Caron Butler: We are doing job fairs and creating experiences while exposing them to things outside of the community that they are not used too. We are bringing in people from these Fortune 500 companies so they can be exposed to people that they would not normally see in their community and they can create relationships. Back in the day, in my community you would know that one police officer in the neighborhood or that owner of the corner store down the street, nowadays you don’t see that. It’s all about bringing the community together as one.

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