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Caron Butler: "You never know"


All the most talked what-if moments in the NBA are all somehow connected to the game. Klay’s wild Game 6 that would lead to Warriors beating OKC and KD joining them that summer. Diaw suspension for stepping on the court to defend Nash that probably robbed the Suns a title. The voided CP3 trade. There is one event we mostly view as posturing and machismo, not realizing how close were we from a gun going off in an NBA locker room.

Gilbert Arenas will always be the guy with the gun. No matter how talented he was and the impact he had on the game in his era, when you bring a gun in the locker room to settle an issue with a teammate, that will mark your career.

Everyone has their version of the story, so let’s go through the main elements that are mostly the same in all versions. We know it started on the team plane. It’s not news that players play card games on the team plane and that often money is involved. Such competitive personalities have to make it more interesting, so thousands of dollars are involved.

Arenas and Crittenton were leaving the plane when trash-talking started, supposedly about money lost s in a game. Both players started mentioning their guns and using them in dealing with the issue. Crittenton allegedly told Arenas he would shoot him in the knees if they were in the streets.

According to Arenas, he brought four guns to the next practice and laid them out in front of Crittenton’s locker. When Crittenton arrived, Arenas told him to pick one out and shoot him with it (thus making good on his promise). He then said he had his own and pulled a gun that was locked and loaded on Arenas. In another version of the story, Arenas brought the guns but told Crittenton to pick which one should Arenas use to shoot him with.

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Whichever version happened, we know Caron Butler was in the locker room, quite calm, trying to defuse the situation. He had a difficult youth, and a situation like this was not uncommon for him. Here’s how he described it in his book “Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA.”

Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those,” said Javaris, turning around slowly like a gunslinger in the Old West. “I’ve got one right here.”

He pulled out his gun, already loaded, cocked it, and pointed it at Gilbert.

"Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those,” said Javaris, turning around slowly like a gunslinger in the Old West. “I’ve got one right here.”
He pulled out his gun, already loaded, cocked it, and pointed it at Gilbert.

Other players who had been casually arriving, laughing and joking with each other, came to a sudden halt, their eyes bugging out. It took them only a few seconds to realize this was for real, a shootaround of whole different nature. They all looked at each other, and then they ran, the last man out, locking the door behind him.
I didn’t panic because I’d been through far worse, heard gunshots more times than I could count, and seen it all before. That would have been just another day on the south side.
I talked calmly to Javaris, reminding him that his entire career, not to mention, perhaps, his life, would be over if he flicked that trigger finger.

People fight and argue all the time, and even Arenas putting guns, there was more of a stunt, as all of them had no bullets in them. The loaded gun was something else, and Butler recently told Kirstine Leahy on “Fair Game” that he wasn’t sure this was only a stunt. The possibility of a gun going off was quite real.

Later his concern was confirmed as Javaris Crittenton was sentenced to 23 years in prison for a gang-related shooting. In a revenge attack with a gun, he accidentally shot a bystander who passed away. His first year in the NBA was with the Lakers, where he got acquainted with the Mansfield Family Gangster Crips. That connection would lead to his involvement in the shooting and his prison sentence.

Apparently, at the time of the incident, there was a real possibility Arenas would’ve been shot. The history of the NBA would’ve been dramatically changed. Lucky for everyone involved, we can only speculate.

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