Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Caron Butler announced his retirement from the NBA in a piece published on the Player’s Tribune, and he spent a decent portion of the essay announcing the move by reflecting on his relationship with Miami Heat executive Pat Riley.
Butler fondly remembered how Riley drafted him out of UConn and helped teach him the professionalism he’d need to make it for 16 years in the NBA during his first two seasons in Miami. Butler previously told LakersNation.com that Riley instilled a belief the ‘rookie wall’ was nothing more than a mental block.
Their close relationship only made it hurt more when Riley, a former Lakers head coach himself, traded Butler to the franchise he helped lead to four championships in exchange for Shaquille O’Neal, via The Player’s Tribune.
So it definitely hurt when I found out that it was Pat Riley who traded me to L.A. after my second season in Miami. I thought Pat and I just had this special sort of basketball bond.
I mean, damn, I would’ve traded myself for Shaq, too. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and say that you are more valuable to a team than Shaq, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s an issue with your ego.
So the sting didn’t last very long. It’s just something that comes with growing up in this league. Like I said, I was so used to staying in one place growing up that naturally I expected to be in Miami for my entire career. Those first years playing with D-Wade, Brian Grant, Eddie Jones, Alonzo, it was such an incredible learning experience. I’ll always remember how much fun I had playing with those guys.
Butler eventually realizing why Riley made the move is emblematic of the type of professionalism that endeared him to every NBA organization he was a part of. And it’s what’s made him so popular around the Lakers after just one year in the organization.
In fact, Butler was popular enough that being traded to Los Angeles ended up being a sort-of blessing in disguise for the NBA veteran, because he’s been able to land on his feet as an analyst for the team’s exclusive network, Spectrum SportsNet.
Things working out like that may have helped lessen the sting of being dealt for Butler, even if it sounds like he’ll also always remember that feeling of being sent away from a place he was happy.
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