Former NBA small forward Rasual Butler and his wife, R&B singer Leah LaBelle, were killed early Wednesday morning in a single-car crash in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Studio City. He was 38.
According to TMZ, which first broke the news of Butler’s death, the fatal crash took place around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, when the ex-NBA player reportedly lost control of his Range Rover and struck a parking meter. The SUV then crashed into a wall and flipped, killing Butler and his wife. Police officers believe that Butler may have been driving at speeds “two to three times higher than the limit,” according to NBC Los Angeles. As of this writing, an investigation is still ongoing regarding the cause of the fatal accident.
A four-year starter at forward for La Salle University in Philadelphia, Rasual Butler was selected by the Miami Heat with the 53rd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Known mainly for his outside shooting and defensive play, Butler mostly came off the bench in his 14-year NBA career but spent a few years as a starting small forward, including the 2009-10 season, where he averaged a career-best 11.9 points per game for the Los Angeles Clippers.
All in all, Butler played for eight NBA teams from 2002 to 2016, averaging 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds over his career, per Basketball Reference, and he last played in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs in the 2015-16 season. He was part of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ training camp roster for 2016-17 but was cut shortly before the start of the season, wrote Fox News. Following his NBA stint, Butler suited up last year for rapper Ice Cube’s BIG3 three-on-three basketball league, as noted by the New York Daily News.
Rasual Butler was married to Leah LaBelle, an R&B singer who, in 2004, finished 12th in the third season of American Idol. She later signed a deal with Epic Records, though she had yet to release a full-length album at the time of her death. According to Rap-Up, she was mentored by Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri, who collaborated with her on a five-song sampler released in 2012.
In the hours since Rasual Butler’s death, multiple NBA players and organizations have taken to social media to pay tribute to the late forward and his wife. According to TMZ Sports, the Indiana Pacers, whom Butler played for in the 2013-14 season, referred to him as a “consummate team player and a great role model for our younger players,” while San Antonio Spurs forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge called him an “amazing teammate and an even better person.”