Lakers legend Kobe Bryant ‘blackout’ story after Shaq trade, per Caron Butler
Since the tragic passing of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant back in January, every player that played alongside him or went up against him has a distinct memory of the five-time NBA champion and what he meant to them. Former Lakers forward Caron Butler is no different.
Even though Butler only played one season with Bryant in Los Angeles, he created a lifelong bond with the Hall of Famer, and the impact on his life is something he’ll never forget.
Recently, Caron Butler made a guest appearance on ClutchPoints’ Battle for LA podcast with Tomer Azarly and I to talk about several different topics, including his relationship with Kobe Bryant and his first interaction with him after being traded to the Lakers in a blockbuster deal by the Miami Heat to acquire Shaquille O’Neal.
Butler went into detail about being traded to the Lakers and his initial reaction to hearing about the deal.
“That was my introduction to the business of basketball,” Caron Butler said. “I was actually coming from Antigua, and I did a Basketball Without Borders event for the Miami Heat, and I was seeing all this trade news and trade talk. I don’t know if people will remember these days, but when you used to look at ESPN, they had at the bottom of the ticker in big broad…it was huge, ‘Shaquille O’Neal may be coming to the Miami Heat,’ and you see Stuart Scott reporting it. I never saw my name in it, though.
“I was like, ‘Oh shit! He’s coming.’ Somebody like Brian Grant. I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about that. I’m here forever. I got drafted by the Heat.’ And then all of a sudden, I see my name, and I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ I got the phone call from Pat Riley telling me, ‘Man, sorry… It’s Shaq. I had to.’ [laughs]. It’s one of those things.”
Once it became official that Butler was being traded to the Lakers, the young forward started to come to grips with the fact he was headed to Los Angeles to play alongside Bryant, who already had plans for the newcomer.
“I was just sad because you make a personal connection with the organization in those two years. I never left. I always was there and had to pivot and go to Los Angeles, which wasn’t a bad thing [laughs]. But it was just like, ‘What’s next? Am I ready for this?’ And I get to Los Angeles, and I arrive at the press conference. My big brother there waiting for me, Kobe Bryant. He signs a huge deal for $130 million right there in front of us and then also we do our press conference.
“What a lot of people always do is they go off on vacation. The fruits of their labor, they enjoy it. Work hard; sign a contract. Most people quit their job when they hit the lottery. Not Kobe. Kobe was right there, and he was like, “Hey, tomorrow we blacking out.’ And I was like, ‘What the f*** does that mean? Blackout? What is that?’ Kobe: ‘We working out. Be here tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘What time?’ He was like, ‘7:30, 7:15 be here.’ And I get there, and he’s already there. Got his stuff together.
“That started my introduction to the Kobe sessions. It really introduced me to work ethic and all those things and how to be a professional in real-time.”
Caron Butler’s time with the Lakers was cut short. Despite his close relationship with Bryant and the fact he was a star on the rise, the Lakers decided to trade him to the Washington Wizards in a deal for Kwame Brown. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a wise move, but it resulted in a deal for Pau Gasol a few years later, which ultimately added two more championship banners in the rafters at the Staples Center.
Although they only spent one season together in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant left a lasting impression on Butler, which he sorely needed after not getting the same kind of mentorship in Miami.
“I always tell people that when I got to Miami, Alonzo Mourning had the kidney situation,” Butler said. “He wasn’t able to be on the basketball court and do all the things from a leadership standpoint, so we were trying to like pretty much rebuild on the fly, but they always talked about the culture and the preparation and all these things. They were instilling all the right things in us for us to have longevity of basketball. We had somewhat of a young team. Myself, Lamar Odom, Dwayne Wade, Rasual Butler, rest in peace, Sean Lampley, and so many more.
“They were just trying to teach us some things, but when I get to Los Angeles, Kobe – he was doing it. Not only was he teaching it, but he was doing it and like giving us the end-up look of what it is. We got the teachings in Miami, but he was giving us the teachings and the lessons and following through in real-time. And plus, he was already established as a champion and all those things and a perennial All-Star, All-NBA talent.
“Everything was just there, and he was somebody that I respected. Immediately, I gained his respect because I was always there. I never shied away from work, and that’s why we became not just really good teammates, but ultimately, really good friends away from the game of basketball.”
Along with shedding some light on his relationship and time with Kobe Bryant while in Los Angeles, Caron Butler also talked about many different aspects of his NBA as well as the reignited GOAT debate, “The Last Dance” documentary, and much more.
You can listen to the full podcast on:
Apple: Battle for LA Podcast
Spotify: Battle for LA Podcast