Caron Butler: From Drug Dealer To NBA Veteran

Download Audio

It's just about a month until the NBA regular season tips off, and veteran Caron Butler is preparing for his 14th season in the league. After a year-long stint with the Pistons, Butler will now play for the Sacramento Kings, his ninth team. But as a kid growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, Butler never dreamed of playing in the NBA.

"You know, basketball was just a pastime," Butler told Only A Game. "I didn't look years down the road. I was just trying to survive that minute, that next hour, that next second. I didn't look to the future like that."

Butler has never hidden his past, but in his forthcoming book, "Tuff Juice," he offers details of his life before pro basketball.

Starting at age 11 or 12, Butler turned to drug dealing to make money. When he was 15, he was arrested after police found drugs and a gun in his school locker. He was sent to a juvenile correctional facility and, after an altercation with another inmate, found himself in solitary confinement.

That's when he decided it was time to make a change. Butler focused on positive choices: enrolling in school, getting a job and playing basketball. Butler's talent, along with support from his community, led to a college career at the University of Connecticut. He was the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft. Butler's now set on helping others find a different path than the one he took as a kid.

"The NBA, it's a sport, it's a game — a game that I love, a game that put me on this platform and brought me unbelievable blessings," he said. "But at the same time, what are you going to use your platform for? What is your legacy going to be? What are people going to remember you for? Are they going to remember you for being just this basketball player? Or are they going to remember you for planting all the right seeds? I wanted to plant seeds."

During this week's edition of "In Their Own Words," Butler tells his story of escaping crime and poverty and how he's trying to use his status to make a difference.

To hear the full story, click the play button below the headline at the top of the page.

This segment aired on September 26, 2015.


Headshot of Karen Given

Karen Given Executive Producer/Interim Host, Only A Game
Karen is the executive producer for WBUR's Only A Game.



More from Only A Game

Listen Live