PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WTXF) - For two hours, people filed in to the Tom Gola Arena at La Salle University to pay their respects to former NBA player Rasual Butler February 11. The 38-year-old Philly native and La Salle University basketball star was killed last month in a high-speed, one-car-crash in Los Angeles. His wife, Leah LaBelle, known as a contestant on American Idol, also died.
“It’s just heart breaking. Because he was young,” said Omar Donaldson.
Donaldson tells FOX 29 Butler was his first cousin. His family was proud of him, enjoyed watching him dominate on the court and, like many who knew him, respected his work ethic.
“That’s why Pat Riley always liked him. That’s why all the NBA coaches liked him, cause he was always good on the practice squad. And, they knew Rasual was ready to step in at any time,” explains Donaldson.
Butler was drafted by the Miami Heat in 2002 and played for several teams in the NBA until 2016. While at La Salle University, Butler was a 2-time First Team All-Atlantic 10 player. City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says he grew up with Butler in the Point Breeze section of the city. It’s his character that impressed him the most.
“He always would come back and give to the neighborhood. He was a sponsor of the Point Breeze Youth Development Basketball League every year. And, so, he gave back and never forgot where he came from,” explained City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
And, to these mourners and more, Butler himself will never be forgotten.
“We proud of the man and it’s just so hard. I love my cousin and I’m going to miss him,” Donaldson said.