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NBA veteran Caron Butler has earned a deserving reputation as a no-nonsense professional over his soon-to-be 14 seasons, playing for various teams in different roles and succeeding at nearly every stop along the way. At the same time, though, he's one of the most interesting personalities in the league's recent history. Move beyond his relatively unassuming on-court style and you will find a former gang member and drug dealer with a longstanding (and banned) habit of chewing straws on the bench and a medically unsafe addiction to Mountain Dew. He contains multitudes and perhaps not surprisingly has authored a new book, "Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA," to tell his life story.
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The promotional tour for the autobiography has confirmed that Butler is as eccentric as ever at 35 years old. So much, in fact, that he has not stopped drinking his favorite beverage even at an age when most veterans look for every possible advantage to keep themselves in playing shape. As revealed in a sitdown with Nina Mandell of For The Win, Butler just can't quit Mountain Dew:
“You’re sitting in the back of the bus and eating the right thing and (guys will) be like ‘why are you drinking that?’ And I’m like ‘what’s wrong with Mountain Dew?'” he said. “Guys are just shaking their heads and they have got water and those special crushed juices and I’m drinking a big Mountain Dew, just downing it frozen and stuff. They’re like ‘this guy, he’s not going to make it.'”
Butler said he tried to hide his habit when he played with Kobe Bryant, who is well known for keeping his teammates’ diets in check. “He’d just shake his head,” Butler said.
So when he was on the Lakers, Butler went to extreme lengths to avoid Bryant see him drinking the soda, especially on the bus. “I’d try to slide it under the chair or something,” he said.
“Guys knew I needed help. I still do. That’s like the battle I can’t get away from. I can get away from the streets, I can get away from all of these different things,” he added. “I can’t get away from Mountain Dew.”
Butler says he has gone from drinking a two-liter bottle every day to one every few days, which is vague enough that it's fair to wonder how much he once did and now does drink. Shame plays a major role in addiction and cannot be discounted when assessing Butler's habit.
Because this addiction is very real. Butler attempted to quit in the offseason of 2009 and even admitted to going through withdrawals, but that try at going cold-turkey apparently did not take. At least Butler admits that he continues to need help.
It's something of a wonder that Butler continues to perform at a reasonably high level despite his soda intake. The health effects of drinking soft drinks are very, very negative and can lead to everything from general sluggishness to serious disease. It's possible that Butler has only weathered those effects because his profession requires a high degree of physical fitness.
So here's hoping Butler is finally able to break his Mountain Dew addiction upon his retirement. Perhaps some time away from the league will allow him the chance to break his dependency.
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