Andy chats with Caron Butler, 14-year NBA veteran, champion and author of Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA. Butler had been arrested more than 12 times by the time he was 15 and served time in the Racine Correctional Institution before attending UCONN and starting his NBA career as a first round draft pick. He is an advocate for criminal justice reform and raising awareness about racial injustice.
“Well, I think first we have to be honest about the history of how we got here. Because I think that’s what is being lost and distorted in the midst of all of this,” Butler said.
He encourages a discussion that includes the “uncomfortable real history of slavery,” economic injustices, and Jim Crow laws. He notes that racial injustice is a pervasive issue in the United States and that education is key to making progress.
“Until you get to that point, until you get where you don’t only acknowledge black history in the month of February and you’re addressing black history year-round because black history is history,” Butler said. “I think that it’s important that we talk about that. And going forward, it’s very important that we continue to educate and inform our kids. What’s different from all the movements that I’ve seen in the past and what I’m seeing right now at current time is that young people are super engaged and informed. You see multiple generations out there on the frontline.”
Butler says mentorship plays an important role in his life and how these key people have helped him make decisions and move his life forward.
“These are the people sometimes that when they have empathy in these moments, when they understand, they have a broad perspective on life, these are people that you can bounce ideas off of and get a real perspective,” Butler said. “I think it’s important that you be authentic, and you tell your truth and you have someone that you can bounce ideas off that has an amazing observation of life.”
Butler’s mentors include Raymond Brothers, his long-time agent and lawyer, former coaches, his grandmother, mother, and “numerous people that have had some sweat equity and some fingerprints on shaping who I am today.”
“Well, someone that you mentioned earlier is our brother who is no longer here, Kobe Bryant. He was a mentor. He was a confidant. He was somebody that I would just shoot texts and bounce ideas off all the time because we were in this march together when we talked about our second acts and how we wanted to be great. He was already doing it. He was raising the bar. He was just blazing a path for others like myself and others to continue to be great,” Butler said.
Butler shared a memory of inviting Kobe to a barbecue with his family and how he and Kobe stayed in touch after basketball. He credits the former Laker with inspiring him to become an author of children’s books.
“I was just like, because of him, I went down this path. And I’m excited to just bring these stories to life,” Butler said.