CLEVELAND — Former Heat player Rasual Butler and his wife were killed in a single-car crash in California early Wednesday.
According to TMZ, Butler lost control of his Range Rover around 2 a.m. in Studio City, Calif. The car struck a parking meter and slammed into a wall before flipping over, according to the report.
Butler was 38 and his wife, Leah LaBelle, was 31.
The Heat selected Butler with the 53rd overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Butler played in Miami for three seasons before moving on to play for the Hornets from 2005-09, the Clippers from 2009-11, the Bulls in 2011, the Raptors in 2011-12, the Pacers in 2013-14, the Wizards in 2014-15 and the Spurs in 2015-16.
During Butler’s time with the Heat from 2002-05, he averaged 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 182 games (43 starts).
“This is beyond a sad day for the Miami Heat Family,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “The loss of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah, is devastating. Rasual was one of the greatest people we have ever had play for us; a great player, teammate and better person. It’s always hard to cope with losing those you shared your life with, but we feel blessed to have had such a bright light shine in all of our lives. Our compassion, empathy and hearts go out to their family and loved ones. We pray and know that with the grace, mercy and light of The Lord, Rasual and Leah will Rest In Peace.”
Dwyane Wade, who played with Butler in Miami for two seasons, immediately went to Twitter and expressed his condolences with, “Come on man. Damn. The world just lost a great dude. RIP Rasual “Bop” Butler!
The Heat tweeted: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of Rasual and Leah. They will be missed.”
While Wayne Ellington and Dion Waiters never played on the same team as Butler, they got to know him since they all grew up in the Philadelphia area. The news hit them hard.
“This one hurt my heart,” Ellington posted on Instagram. “At a loss of words. RIP Rasual. Praying for your family. A Philly hoop legend and role model.”
“Lost for words!!!!!,” Waiters posted on Instagram. “May you & your wife R.I.P, Literally just got up to hear about my dawg my ole head.. one of the first to do it from Philly!! Who always told/showed me the game who text me & always stayed positive was literally a genuine person!!! Who pulled up on me in the hood while I was on my block 3,4 in the morning just talking bout ball & life!!! & who was always happy for me!!”
Udonis Haslem is the only current member of the Heat who played with Butler in Miami. Haslem was Butler’s teammate in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
“Damn! Smh! My prayers go out to the Butler family,” Haslem tweeted. “I spent many nights my rookie year running with the Philly dog! My first encounter with anyone from Philly and immediately knew he was just like me. We held each other down. U and ur wife will be missed Rasual ‘Bop’ Butler!”