I always have been a Wizards/Bullets fan since I was a young kid. However, my fandom didn't really take off until the mid 2000's when I was in college, when Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler led Washington to three consecutive playoff berths, and some heated playoff matches against the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2006-2008.
I was very pleased to see that Jamison received a warm welcome back and a tribute video after he was formally named a member of the team's Alumni Association last February. But among the players on the Wizards' Big Three during the 2000's, my favorite player in that group was Caron Butler, who turns 35 today, on Friday, March 13:
Happy Bday to Caron Butler @realtuffjuice | From drug dealer to 1st rd pick to NBA champion http://t.co/nDZpZ3NzLS pic.twitter.com/1zzuQhlsat— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 13, 2015
I can't exactly describe or say why I like Butler more than Arenas or Jamison. But I will say that I liked his tenacious play on both ends of the floor which is why Wizards fans affectionately call him "Tuff Juice." And I'll also admit that I like Butler even more because the Wizards traded Kwame Brown away for him.
Butler played with the Wizards from 2005 to 2010 where he enjoyed the best years of his career, where he was an All-Star Reserve in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. In addition, Butler was the player not named LeBron James to average at least 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists for both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
If there is one play that I think defines what Butler was all about in D.C., it was his game winner in Game 5 of their 2008 playoff series against the Cavaliers, when he literally delivered on former owner Abe Pollin's wish to just win one more game. That play is embedded above.
If there's a close second, it was Caron Butler's big game on February 8, 2009 against the Indiana Pacers, when he scored 35 points and made another game winning shot at the buzzer. I even remember he had the flu that day like this video indicates below:
I wish that he could have stayed in Washington beyond the 2009-10 season. But Washington's poor performances in the 2008-09 and early in the 2009-10 seasons showed that the roster had to be broken up, even if Arenas' gun incident never happened.
But all things worked out for the best. Butler was traded to the Dallas Mavericks before the trade deadline in 2010 where he won an NBA championship the next year. He also had a chance to play on some other strong teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Now, he's with the Detroit Pistons and in the twilight of his career.
As for the Wizards, the franchise has been able to build around a younger group of players, like John Wall and Bradley Beal who form the foundation of the current playoff caliber (and hopefully better) team we see today. Hopefully, we'll get past the second round of the playoffs in the next several years, but I digress.
Even though Butler's no longer with the Wizards, he still was a huge part in making the Wizards a fun team to watch during the mid-2000's. For that, I'm grateful.
So in short, happy birthday Caron! We can't wait to see you back at Verizon Center with the Wizards/Bullets Alumni after you decide to hang 'em up.