In Caron Butler's two years with the Heat, Pat Riley served as a measuring stick for hard work. But despite his militaristic, philosophical approach to the game, Riley, who coached Butler throughout his rookie campaign, could do nothing but theorize about what it takes to achieve greatness. What Caron needed was someone to put the theory into practice.
I'm listening to Pat Riley all the time talking about disposition, your mentality, and your work ethic and all this stuff and I'm like, 'Damn, okay I got it, I got it.' But I was like, 'That sh*t is impossible to do. You can't go that hard all the time.'
Then on July 14, 2004, Butler got traded to the Lakers in a deal that sent Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat. The next day, Kobe Bryant, who the Lakers decided to build their team around post the Shaq-Kobe era, inked a 7-year, $136 million contract, imposing himself as an undeniable franchise cornerstone. And he wasted no time showing that to the new guy.
The second he signed it, he's like,'You're ready to fuc*ing blackout?' And I was like, 'What is the blackout?' He's like, 'We're about to fuc*ing blackout. Be here at 7 am tomorrow.'
The next day, both Kobe and Caron were at the gym at 7 am, and the Lakers superstar showed Butler what a blackout workout was. "It was like you're getting your reps in, you're getting your 50 shots from each spot, 100 makes off the move, you're getting all this sh*t," Caron said. "Then you get so tired, you see spots; you're blacking out. That was a blackout."
In his two years in Miami, with one of the greatest head coaches in NBA history, the 6'7'' small forward got the hang of how much effort it takes to make it in the best basketball league in the world. But he was never able to force himself into that mindset. Kobe did it with a single practice. But he was far from over.
After that first workout, you go get you something to eat and take about three or four hours to yourself. Then you come back, and you black out again. And we did this literally from - free agency was the first week of July - we did that sh*t all the way to training camp.
Everything Butler experienced alongside Kobe after that summer pointed to one conclusion - that dude was different. And it goes way beyond the stories we've already heard and the ones that are yet to be told. Just being around a guy like that, seeing how he approaches the game, Caron described as inspiring, and just what the doctor ordered for a young guy ready to make a name for himself in the NBA.
Hundreds of blackout workouts later, that's exactly what he's accomplished, just like so many others who looked to Kobe for inspiration. Butler was one of the lucky ones who did it with Bryant his side.