January 14, 2009
I didn't know much about Caron Butler before I started researching for this interview. I knew he had gotten into trouble as a teenager, after numerous run-ins with the law, but I had heard that he was actually quite a nice guy who had turned his life completely around.
After spending just a few minutes speaking to him last week, I can understand why people speak so highly of him now. The UConn product comes across as a better person than he is as a player, which is saying something considering he is averaging almost 20 points and six rebounds a game.
As you'll see below, there doesn't seem to be a topic that Butler isn't comfortable talking about. The Wizards' forward has seen and heard it all, so a few questions about straws and surprise parties aren't going to throw him off his game ...
Ball Don't Lie: You were born, raised, and still go back to Racine, Wisconsin. What is there to do for fun in Racine?
Caron Butler: In the summertime, it's always about celebrating proclamation day. It's a huge day in Racine. It's when Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation that set slaves free. It's always fun; it's like a big weekend in which we have a lot of festivities and stuff like that, so that's huge. The Fourth of July is always huge, we've got a great parade ... just seeing loved ones and people you grew up with. Obviously, I hold a lot of charity events there, so that's my home, that's the best thing about it.
BDL: So there is stuff to do there?
BDL: Your former coach Eddie Jordan gave you the nickname "Tough Juice," and I've also seen that people call you "Caronamo" among other things. Is there a nickname you prefer over all the others at this point?
For no apparent reason, Juan Dixon walks over and gets into our conversation: "No," Dixon says. "We don't go by that [stuff] at all ... At all."
I'm not sure what was going on with Juan that day, but my guess is that he was extremely bored. Back to Butler, who starts to smile a little more, seemingly just as confused as I am at Juan's little outburst ...
Butler: We go by our last names now. We go "Butler."
BDL: That's it?
Butler: Yeah, he calls me Butler, because I'm known for serving people ... giving you what you need.
At this point, the interview takes another interesting turn when Mike James starts talking trash about the way Butler looks. Caron is having none of it. "Hey, look at him," he says to me, as I look over at James. "Even when he smiles, he's ugly."
After the laughs subsided, the questions started again ...
BDL: Can you believe you were actually dealt for Kwame Brown and LaRon Profit?
Butler: I can't believe it, but it is what it is. It happened, and it happened for a great reason because I was able to get into a great situation in which I was able to prosper ... it worked out for me great.
BDL: Can you really believe that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak could be that dumb?
Butler: I guess he saw something. I don't know if it was a money thing, I don't know what it was. I wouldn't have done it, (Laughs) if I was the GM. It is what it is.
BDL: Are you still a straw enthusiast?
Butler: Yeah, I have my straws before every game still.
BDL: So the straw streak is still going?
Butler: (Smiles) Tradition ... tradition.
BDL: Have you added any new straws to the rotation?
Butler: Nah ... still the McDonald's straws.
BDL: You like The Cheesecake Factory's straws too though, right?
Butler: Cheesecake's are cool because they're thick. That's my substitute. But I try to stick with McDonald's straws.
BDL: But I read that you own a few Burger King's now. The Burger King straws just don't measure up?
Butler: The Burger King straws are good but since I own 'em, I'm not in the contract to promote 'em. (Laughs) ... But I eat the food though. Burger King's food is obviously better than McDonald's.
BDL: There was a great story I read a while back about how you attended a surprise birthday party for a young fan of yours. You said that you would go to anybody's party if you were free. So, if I told you my buddies were having a big bash in D.C. in a few weeks, and you aren't doing anything that day, would you be there?
Butler: [Party invitations] happen a lot. I get requests and stuff like that. If I'm not doing anything, I don't have a problem stepping out and having a good time, and making somebody's day. It's rewarding for me, and obviously it helps them. But it helps me too because of the impact you have on somebody's life.
BDL: But you realize that you're in a minority in terms of NBA players who would go out of their way to do something like that?
Butler: A lot of people wouldn't do that. Yeah, I know. It's cool with me though.
BDL: So I'm gonna call you when my buddies have that party in D.C.
Butler: (Smiles) All right.
BDL: What was cooler for you: Being on "Oprah," or making the All-Star team?
Butler: Ahh ... that's ... I'll have to say both, man.
BDL: You gotta pick one.
Butler: I think going on "Oprah," man. I grew up in a house full of women, raised by my grandmother and my mother. They grew up watching "Oprah." It was like a tradition in our household; just to finally go on the show and for them to get the opportunity to meet a great woman like Oprah Winfrey is unbelieveable.
BDL: On a completely different note, what the heck is a crab dribble?
Butler: A crab dribble is a dribble where you get low and pound it, and you establish a pivot foot. [LeBron's play] just happened to be a travel the other night.
BDL: But, you have heard of that expression before?
Butler: Yeah, it's a crab dribble. But, [LeBron's play] is still a travel.
BDL: Are you going to beat him next time around?
Butler: I have to get him back for that one.
BDL: Is he that good at the game?
Butler: It was actually like his second or third time playing too. So, it was like we both never really played that game before.
BDL: But now it's on the Internet for all the world to see, so you're gonna get him back ...
Butler: Oh, I have to get him back now.
BDL: Speaking of Internet clips, what do you call that dance that you pulled off when you were dancing with Tiffany Evans?
Butler: (Smiles) I just let it all hang out, man. It was everything I ever worked on. All my dance moves just came out at once.
BDL: So there's no specific name to that dance?
Butler: Nah, it was just everything, man. I just brought it all.
BDL: How about the "Caronamo?"
Butler: It's "The Caronamo" mixed with "The Tornado" and all that other stuff ...
BDL: All right, just a couple more questions. Are you going to the Inauguration?
Butler: Actually, I can't. If we were in town I'd definitely be there, but we're not gonna be in town. I'm definitely going to watch it and I've got it recorded. My wife and like 15 of my family members will be there.
BDL: You were a big supporter of Obama's. What does it mean to you to have him in office now?
Butler: I think [his election] changed the mindset for a lot of minorities in the inner city. When you used to grow up, you used to be like, "I want to be a basketball player, a fire-fighter, a police officer, you never said, "I want to be the President of the United States."
Now, it just opens up a whole 'nother avenue, and just to see him set that trend, and everybody's belief and hope is that he's going to do a great job ... [the hope is] that you see a lot more Presidents of that color or that type coming. You might see a Hispanic President, anything can happen now, seeing is believing. It's just a great, historic moment.
BDL: So maybe now you and Obama can both go on "Oprah."
Butler: (Smiles) Yeah, that'd be great. I know Oprah is his girl.