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Former Clipper Caron Butler's Tuff Juice Story

The thirteen year veteran's career almost never happened.

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the players that have played with the Los Angeles Clippers, Caron Butler is quite special. While he wasn't the most amazing player in terms of statistics, his time with the Los Angeles Clippers was still productive and (perhaps most importantly) symbolic. As a free agent before the 2011-2012 season, Butler was coming off an injury-shortened (but productive) season that witnessed the Dallas Mavericks upset the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Respected teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls were in hot pursuit for his services. Yet in the end Butler decided to sign a 3 year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. This was a Clippers team that had gone 32-50 the year that Dallas won its championship. Similar to Cuttino Mobley joining the Clippers, the signing of Caron Butler was symbolic of the change of direction for a once cursed franchise. With Blake Griffin (and Eric Gordon at the time) at the helm, professional basketball players were actually interested in playing for the Clippers. Indeed, about a week after Butler's contract was announced, another NBA player joined the Clippers: Chris Paul. The rest of the Clippers' momentum is history.

But what history has yet to really appreciate enough is the life journey that brought Caron Butler to the NBA in the first place. As ForTheWin highlighted recently, Butler almost never made it to NBA. Instead, after a stint as a gangster and drug dealer, Butler almost found himself in jail for an extended period of time.

It was January 1998 and earlier that day an informant allegedly told police that they bought drugs from the house Butler was living in. Wisconsin police officer Rick Geller got a search warrant, looked at Butler's previous history (he had spent a year in corrections already) and thought this would an easy open-and-shut case.

But luckily for Butler, the police (and SWAT team) did not treat this case as just another stereotypical drug arrest. Having talked with Butler, Office Geller decided not to press any charges. He believed Butler was not a drug dealer. Butler was able to stay a free man and eventually became a star player at the University Connecticut. In 2002 Butler was drafted 10th overall by the Miami Heat. (Seriously, make this into a movie.)

If you have time, I definitely recommend taking a look at Caron Butler's book: Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA.