"All your life you just want to be a champion...To reach this height is so rewarding."
Dallas, TX (June 15)... Two-time NBA All-Star forward Caron Butler is now a world champion. Since the Dallas Maverick's historic Game 6 win Sunday night over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, one which secured the franchise's first championship, Butler has been trying to soak in the win, and grasp the accomplishment, one that comes nine years into his celebrated career.
"I'm trying to take it all in stride. All your life you want to be a champion. You always carry yourself like that, and represent your family the right way. To reach this height is so rewarding," said Butler. "So many great players always fall short of this goal. It is a very humbling experience."
Butler, who went down halfway through the year with a season ending torn patella injury, says he was in fact just days from being cleared for a return by the Mavericks. He had been playing 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 in practice, and was participating in shoot around. The team even brought his uniform to Miami, just in case he was cleared. Although he was not on the court when the team won, fellow players dedicated the playoff run to Butler, one that ultimately gave him, the entire team and the city of Dallas their first ever NBA Championship.
"It took me nine years to get here. I was playing some of the best ball of my career, and life threw something at me. I kept moving forward, and that was our team's identity. Coach said we're going to continue to move forward because that's what you did. I was less than a week out from being cleared. I was so close to coming back. This team inspired me, the same amount that I inspired them. It was more and more a breath of fresh air. And together we made beautiful music."
Continued Butler, "Jason Kidd and Jason Terry saying they were going to dedicate the playoffs to me, that was really special. For Kidd, a future Hall of Famer, and Terry, whose jersey will probably hang in the rafters in Dallas one day, to say that, let me know that they respect me as basketball player, but more than that, they respect me as a person. In a sense, I felt like I was more a part of the win this way, than if I was out there myself."
While his positive outlook and work ethic throughout the season was a point of pride for Butler-who was constantly in the huddle, encouraging teammates and giving advice-he is anxious to get back on the court and compete again next year. A free agent, who will undoubtedly garner great interest from NBA teams around the league, Butler nonetheless has high expectations for what a return to Dallas could produce.
"This is the first time in my career that I'm a free agent, and a lot of teams will be calling," said Butler. "But I think it would be great to be back in Dallas. The thing about success, you want to stay there, and continue at that level. The window of opportunity for this team is definitely there. Either way, I'm going to attack this off season like I never have. I'll have a season and half worth of energy in me come next year. Tuff Juice just got tougher."