He arrived to the NBA as a late second-round draft choice in 2002 and immediately lit up the Miami Heat locker room with an effervescent personality and determination to prove he belonged.
Even while playing alongside Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Lamar Odom, Rasual Butler managed to make his mark with the Heat as a player you noticed on the court for his determination and in the locker room for his optimistic demeanor.
And now he is gone, multiple media outlets reporting that Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle, were killed Wednesday in a single-car crash in Studio City, Calif.
Butler was 38.
The CBS affiliate in Los Angeles reported, “according to Los Angeles police, at around 2:30 a.m., an SUV carrying two people was traveling down the 11200 block of Ventura Boulevard when it lost control, hit three parking meters and a retaining wall and landed in the parking lot of a strip mall.”
Butler, as recently as this past offseason, continued to compete competitively, as part of the Big 3 halfcourt league of former NBA players.
The Heat immediately posted condolences on social media, posting below a photo of Heat President Pat Riley alongside Butler, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of Rasual and Leah. They will be missed.”
Wade, whose first two NBA seasons were spent alongside Butler, posted, “Come on man. Damn. The world just lost a great dude. RIP Rasual ‘Bop’ Butler!”
Butler was known in the Heat locker room as ‘Sual-bop.
Wade, in an Instagram post, also offered an anecdote about his time with Butler.
“This was my first public appearance and I was nervous to go along — so ‘Sual joined to make it easier on me,” Wade posted alongside a photo of the two. “That’s who he was — a great individual that was always there for people when they needed him. Today is a sad day.”
Heat guard Wayne Ellington, another Philadelphia native, took the news hard.
“This one hurt my heart,” Ellington posted. “At a loss of words. RIP Rasual. Praying for your family. A Philly hoop legend and role model.”
Then there was former Heat forward Caron Butler, the Heat’s first-round pick in the 2002 draft when Butler went in the second round.
“So heartbroken by this news,” he posted. “Rest In Peace & Power.”
Butler spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with the Heat, dealt in the 2005 offseason in the mega trade that delivered Jason Williams, James Posey and Antoine Walker to the Heat. Before that deal, he appeared in 12 postseason games on the Heat’s run through the 2005 Eastern Conference finals, starting one of those playoff appearances.
The Philadelphia native went on to play for the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs. His most recent attempt at an NBA career revival came in 2016 training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves, released on Oct. 22, 2016.
Butler remains close to several former teammates, appearing with Odom in his reality television show Khloe & Lamar.