BEST HEAT PLAYER (2003)
His stats aren't as good as those of Eddie Jones or Brian Grant, but this 6'7" forward is still a rookie. And while other rookies -- Houston's Yao Ming and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire -- have caught the media's eye, Butler has played more minutes than any other rookie, and he consistently ranks among the top rookie scorers. He was picked tenth in the 2002 NBA draft, but he was Pat Riley's first pick, an encouraging start at rebuilding a team beset by age, injury, and illness. Butler beat even greater odds just getting to the NBA. The Wisconsin native was a young gang-banger, pushing cocaine for street dealers at age twelve, arrested more than a dozen times, and sentenced to eighteen months in a prison for youthful offenders by age fifteen. That turned out to be his big break. He spent a lot of time on the basketball court, discovered he had a gift -- and the rest is history. As it becomes increasingly clear that Grant and Jones aren't the franchise players their paychecks would suggest, the Heat's hopes for the future have come to rest on Butler's talented shoulders.
Readers Choice: Caron Butler
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