LOS ANGELES — Former Toronto Raptors forward/guard Rasual Butler and his wife were killed in a single-vehicle rollover crash in Los Angeles early Wednesday.
The Raptors confirmed Butler’s death in an email to The Canadian Press. Butler played 34 games for Toronto over the 2011-12 season.
“Rasual was one of the original members of our program when I started here in 2012. His work ethic and enthusiasm for the game were the mark of a true professional,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said in a statement. “He was a pleasure to coach and will be missed.
“On behalf of his former coaches and teammates, we want to offer our sincerest condolences to the families involved.”
The Range Rover crashed around 2:30 a.m. in the Studio City area and left a swath of damage along a major thoroughfare.
Los Angeles police said in a statement that Butler was speeding before his vehicle jumped a curb, hit three parking meters and a concrete wall and then flipped over twice. The vehicle came to rest inside a shopping mall parking lot.
Butler, 38, and Leah LaBelle Vladowski, 31, were pronounced dead at the scene, said Ed Winter, assistant chief investigator with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. Autopsies were pending.
Butler was drafted in 2002 by the Miami Heat out of LaSalle University in his hometown of Philadelphia. He played for eight NBA teams during his 13-year career, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs.
He had career averages of 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds.
Butler’s death sent shockwaves through the NBA.
“This is beyond a sad day for the Miami Heat Family,” team president Pat Riley said in a statement. “Rasual was one of the greatest people we have ever had play for us; a great player, teammate and better person.”
Indiana Pacers president Kevin Pritchard expressed a similar sentiment.
“In his one season with us, Rasual was the consummate team player and a great role model for our younger players on how a professional should prepare and act, while being a positive influence on everyone who associated with him,” he said.
The Clippers said Butler “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.”
He had two stints with the Clippers, in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Minnesota guard and former Clipper Jamal Crawford tweeted, “Damn this one hurts! RIP Rasual Butler & his wife Leah. Sounds so cliche, but Rasual was really one of the good ones!!”
Butler last signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in late 2016 and was waived that October.
Butler’s wife earned a measure of celebrity as an R&B singer. She placed 12th in the third Season of “American Idol” in 2004.
The Associated Press