The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t a very good basketball team in the immediate aftermath of the trade that sent Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat, but they were still watchable because of the promising young tandem of Kobe Bryant and Caron Butler.
The Lakers acquired Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a future first-round pick from the Heat in exchange for The Big Aristotle, and while none of the players that Los Angeles got in return for O’Neal were anywhere near as dominant as he was, they were good, foundational pieces for the rebuild — Butler especially.
Butler, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, averaged 15.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals in his rookie season with the Heat. His second season wasn’t nearly as spectacular, but he was still an intriguing young talent. Best of all, he and Bryant got along well, which is more than Bryant and O’Neal could have said at the time.
Bryant did take issue with one Butler’s habits, though, and that was Butler’s love for Mountain Dew. During a recent appearance on “The Lowe Post,” Butler told Zach Lowe about the encounter with Bryant that made him stop drinking Mountain Dew, at least while he was in Los Angeles:
Did you really hide that you drank Mountain Dew from Kobe?
“Oh 100%. Immediately. Because I started blackout sessions with Kobe right after he signed a contract, and he had signed a contract. We was working out every day ... And fast-forward to our first game of the season, and he’s just like ‘man, you look good, your game is sharp, but you be like, getting winded sometimes. You’re huffing and puffing a little bit too much. You’re a Mercedes Benz, you’re a hybrid, you’re not supposed to be huffing and puffing like that. What type of fuel you using?’
“And I was like ‘fuel, what?’ And he was like ‘man, you gotta be premium. What are you putting in your body?’ I was just like ‘I eat good,’ like me thinking from the South, like ‘I eat good. Whatever I eat is good because it’s good to me.’ You know what I mean?
“So we was on the bus and he comes to the back and I literally had a Mountain Dew, one-liter or two-liter bottle, and I immediately tried to hide it and he was like ‘come on, man, you can’t be putting that in your body, what the hell you doing CB?’ And from that moment I was like [expletive], I’m gonna stop drinking Mountain Dew. And I just pivoted away from Mountain Dew for the remainder of the season ... But the second I went to Washington I was back on that [expletive]. I couldn’t stop, man. But I held true to it, I only drunk it in the third and fourth quarters.
“It was in all my Gatorade cups. Everybody else was asking for the Gatorade Tiger and all that [expletive], I was like ‘go in my locker.’ The ball kid was like ‘go in your locker?’ I said ‘put two ice cubes and put the Mountain Dew in a Gatorade cup.’ And hey. 20. Every time. Buckets ... Hell yeah I tipped them. Mountain Dew and (chewing straws). Buckets.”
Fortunately for Butler, he didn’t have to wait too long to Do The Dew again. After just one season, the Lakers traded Butler and Chucky Atkins to the Washington Wizards for Kwame Brown. Read that sentence again and make it make sense (spoiler: you can’t).
Butler never got to play in the Finals like Bryant did in the years after the trade (he got a ring with the Mavericks in 2011, but he was injured all season). But he did get to drink Mountain Dew worry-free, and that’s basically the same thing.