Former NBA journeyman forward Rasual Butler and his American Idol wife were killed when their speeding Range Rover flipped over and crashed in California on Wednesday. Butler 38 years old who played 13 seasons in NBA from 2002 to 2016, crashed his Range Rover near Studio City in Los Angeles around 2 Am local time. The car reportedly hit a parking meter before slamming into a wall and flipping over. Police believe he was speeding at least twice the 35 mph speed limit. Butler’s wife Leah LaBelle 31 years old was a contestant during the 2004 season of ‘American Idol.’ LaBelle was a Canadian-born American R&B singer. She signed a production deal in 2011 with LA Reid, Jermaine Dupri and Pharrell Williams and released a five-song sampler. Rasual is survived by his daughter Raven from a previous relationship. A Philadelphia native, Butler attended La Salle University before being drafted in second round of 2002 NBA Draft. He averaged 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds over 809 games between the 2002-03 season and 2015-16. Known as a three-point threat, Butler retired with a solid 36.2% mark from behind the arc.
Butler wasn’t expected to have a lengthy NBA career when he was taken by Miami Heat near the end of 2002 draft but went on to play for eight other teams. But given his ability to play both small forward and shooting guard, coupled with his natural shooting ability, Butler carved out a role with several franchises, including the Heat, New Orleans Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs too. He was named NBA D-League’s ‘Impact Player of the Year’ in 2013.
Butler was also included in largest trade in NBA history when he was sent to the New Orleans Hornets (who have since moved to Charlotte). The four-team deal involving Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies involved 13 players, including former All-Stars Eddie Jones, Antoine Walker, and Jason Williams as well as veteran forward James Posey. Butler had his best seasons in 2008-09, when he averaged 11.2 points a game for Hornets and 2009-10, when he averaged a career-best 11.9 points and 33 minutes a game for Clippers.
In a now poignant last tweet late on Tuesday just hours before he died, Butler wrote ‘We are here to be Ourselves and No one else!’ He then shared a link to an Instagram photo which said ‘here to create’. And in a sweet Instagram post just 3 days before his death he praised his daughter Raven.
‘My daughter is so (water wave emoji) yyyy! Her Aura, spirit, style, creativity, intellect, passion and understanding for her age is a beautiful thing to watch as very proud father! She understands things about being solid many adults struggle with! I Love you with every single element of human anatomy that allows me to be here in the physical as your father, friend, partner and inspiration for everything driving me to be the ultimate best version of me.’
Butler was well-known friends with former NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom, and even appeared in episodes of his television show, ‘Khloé & Lamar,’ which focused on brief marriage of former All-Star and Khloé Kardashian.
LA Lakers’ Chris Martin Palmer wrote ‘Just talked to Lamar Odom who considered Rasual Butler his best NBA friend. ‘He was my brother.’
In an earlier tweet said ‘My heart is crushed upon hearing about the death of Rasual Butler. Had many great conversations with him. He died on a freeway two miles from my house at 2:30 AM while I was on Twitter talking about nothing.’
Miami Heat owner Micky Arison responded to news on Twitter, writing ‘Sad sad news R.I.P. Rasual.’ Former Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade expressed his grief over Butler’s passing through Twitter, said ‘Come on man. Damn. The world just lost a great dude.’ The LA Clippers wrote ‘The L.A. Clippers are deeply saddened by the loss of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Rasual will long be remembered not only for his accomplishments on the court, but for his vibrant personality, positive outlook and the compassion he had for everyone around him.’
The Washington Wizards called him ‘a great teammate, a positive member of community and a consummate professional’ who will be ‘missed throughout the entire NBA family’. Chicago Bulls wrote ‘We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Our sincere thoughts and condolences go out to their friends and family.’ NBA legend Kobe Bryant wrote ‘Rest In Peace my brother #RasualButler’.