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Caron Butler: Building A Legacy Beyond Basketball

The NBA Champion enjoyed a successful basketball career. Now retired from the game, he’s focusing his efforts on a greater mission.

Caron Butler went from unlikely NBA champion to fighting against solitary confinement in prisons
Credit-Getty/NBA/Joker Mag Illustration

Former NBA player Caron Butler has taken a unique route with his success. It’s one not seen by many other professional athletes.

While most bask in the glory of fame, Butler has not let his success blind his path. The Wisconsin native remains humble to his upbringing. 

His long NBA career is synonymous with many accolades. Butler won an NBA championship in 2011 and was named to two All-Star teams.

Yet his most impressive feat recently happened, long after stepping onto an NBA court.

Making A Positive Difference

Butler is working to end solitary confinement in prisons and has seen progress as of late. The bill, requiring almost all inmates to be allowed 6½ hours out of their cells, has received final legislative approval after being signed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. 

Many professional athletes seem to ride the wave of success to its fullest potential – whether from million-dollar paychecks to name-brand endorsements. Butler is reflecting on his early teenage years with his most recent endeavor. 

“There’s going to be elected officials out there in the future that’s going to care about this community in real-time,” Butler told the NBA, explaining why he is hopeful of future change.

“There’s going to be change on the horizon. They are going to come up with ways to rehabilitate that never dehumanize people.”

Troubled Youth To Basketball Stardom

The former NBA player rose to fame after a successful basketball career at the University of Connecticut. Butler saw impressive growth in his first season.

After his freshman year, Butler won gold in the 2001 FIBA World Championship for Young Men.

This student-athlete-to-professional pipeline is not uncommon. Where Butler differs is the road he’s taken to reach that point.

He has faced far more difficult circumstances at a young age than many people experience in their entire lifetime. 

Butler is the ultimate underdog. The philanthropist spent his teenage years selling drugs. He was in and out of correctional facilities on drug possession and firearms charges.

After an altercation with a fellow inmate, he spent time in solitary confinement.

This provoked his recent call to action of eliminating this type of neglectful treatment. 

Butler was arrested 15 times before his 15th birthday. Turning his life around to pursue a professional basketball career seemed far from reality.

After a 14-year NBA career, Butler earned an estimated $84 million. Approximately 20 years after his battle with the law, his life took a 180 degree spin. 

“Being in those four walls and those four corners, it does something to you,” Butler said. 

“Mentally and spiritually, it takes away a lot. It dehumanizes you.”

Inspiring Others Through Expanded Horizons

Caron Butler gives a speech
Source: AP, via Deadspin

His venture into social justice work is admirable. After struggling with both addiction and incarceration, his ability to overcome these hardships is nothing short of inspirational. Butler aims to improve the lives of all people who are imprisoned. This includes those in his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin.

Besides reforming prisons, Butler has taken an interest in real estate. This interest was sparked by the ever-present threat of eviction from childhood homes. 

He now holds equity in several ventures, including Burger King franchises, restaurants, and hotels.

Considering the barriers Butler has overcome to reach his current level of success, his story is incredible. This success ignites a fire beneath him, allowing Butler to push for further legislative action.

“What are you going to use your platform for? What is your legacy going to be?”, Butler asked of Only a Game.

“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.” 

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