Caron Butler is an NBA champion and two-time All-Star.
That’s impressive. But when you consider that Butler almost spent the majority of his young-adult life in jail, it’s unfathomable.
Butler discussed his rough upbringing and more in a memoir released this week, “Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA.”
“I was a teenager (when I got in the drug game),” Butler said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I was out on the streets and some of the guys that was out there, a guy tossed me a pack of his (drugs) and that’s how I got into a game. I had a paper route in Racine, Wisconsin, and I was already working. That’s how I got introduced to the game. I’ve always been exposed to it by the people around me, but that was my first time getting out there and jumping off the porch and getting into it.
The first time I got caught, I was at high school and the ATF came in and they caught me with a quarter ounce of cocaine and a handgun. I ended up doing a little bit over a year in corrections for that case.”
Once Butler got out, he got a job at Burger King.
“When I got out of corrections, I was out of the game,” he said. “I wasn’t doing anything like that. I had a job. (But) I was in a house that got raided and they found a little over an ounce of crack/cocaine in the house. Sergeant (Rick) Geller, who’s been traveling with me, building the bridge from community to law enforcement over the last coupe years and helping with the foundation (3D) and all that, he was the officer that found the narcotics when that tag team came in there. He showed me tremendous favor. He knew that I wasn’t the guy that sold to the informant that morning and he released me.
“Things like that just don’t happen,” Butler continued. “They don’t happen like that for anybody in those predicaments and in those situations. If I was convicted at the time, I would be facing anywhere from 10 to 15 years.”
Instead, Butler, given a second chance on life, cleaned his up.
“After that situation had happened, obviously I was granted another chance,” he said. “It wasn’t my drugs that was found, but when you’re in those environments and those situations, you’re guilty. When Sergeant Geller showed me that favor, I just went to prep school. I had a guy in the neighborhood who was doing all types of things and I asked him for a loan – $6,000 – and he gave it to me. I was able to pay my way through prep school and good things started happening for my basketball career.”
Butler, 35, was Big East Player of the Year at Connecticut in 2002 and a member of the NBA All-Rookie team in 2003.
“It was a good adjustment for me,” Butler said of playing at UConn. “It got me away from the noise and all the distractions and put me in a situation where I was alone and I got stronger mentally and physically. I stayed goal-oriented. . . . We was playing basketball, we was doing something that we loved doing and I was exposed to so much. It was a family atmosphere. Coach (Jim Calhoun) taught me how to be professional on and off the court. I just took my dreams and ran with them.”