High School All-American and eight-year NBA veteran, Mitchell Butler.
High School: Oakwood, California
Mitchell reflects on his outstanding high school career. From 1987 to 1989, he was named the Southern Section Small Schools Division, Player of the Year. In 1988, he led Oakwood to the (Liberty League) Division Championship, notching an astonishing 47 points, 19 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks, in his team’s 61-60 victory. We talk about his 1988 quarterfinal game, where he tallied a staggering 50, of his team’s 55 points, in an eight-point win (55-47).
In November of 1988 – in the early-signing period ahead of his senior year at high school – Mitchell signed a letter of intent with the UCLA Bruins. He discusses how heavily he was recruited and what led him to ultimately choose the Bruins.
Mitchell also talks about his 1989 (Third Team) All-American selection.
College: University of California Los Angeles
Years: 1989-90 – 1992-93 | Coach: Jim Harrick
At the time of recording our conversation, Mitchell ranked sixth all-time, in total games played (130) for the UCLA Bruins. Whilst researching for our chat, I discovered that in the last warm-up game (November, 1989) prior to his freshman season, Butler’s Bruins played against my fellow countrymen, the Australian Boomers. UCLA defeated the Aussies, 80-68, at Pauley Pavilion.
Mitchell played in the NCAA Tournament, in each of his four seasons. We chat about his freshman campaign, where he made it to the Sweet Sixteen, against Duke – the eventual National Finalists (who lost to UNLV). As a sophomore, Butler started almost every game, before the Bruins were upset by Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We discuss how close Mitchell came to transferring from UCLA after that second season. UCLA made it to the Elite Eight, in 1992, before losing out to Calbert Cheaney and his Indiana Hoosiers. Though it was a disappointing end to the season, Mitchell won his team’s Player Improvement Award, due to his all-around play and positive mental attitude. As a senior, he was named team captain and also enjoyed (arguably) his best season as a Bruin, with 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. We cover UCLA’s near-upset of Michigan’s Fab Five, in a classic, second-round overtime game, in the 1993 NCAA Tournament.
Date: June 30 | Location: Auburn Hills | Pick: Undrafted
We talk about the circumstances behind Mitchell being overlooked on draft day, and how he made his way into the league, in the months that followed.
NBA / Euro / ABA / CBA career | Years: 1993-94 – 2003-04
Seasons: 1993-94 – 1995-96 | Team: Washington Bullets
Coaches: Wes Unseld & Jim Lynam
Individually, Mitchell’s best NBA seasons were his first two in the league, averaging almost eight points and three rebounds, in just 19 minutes per game. We cover his first stint with Washington and links to Australian legend – and former podcast guest – Andrew Gaze. Butler twice scored an NBA-career high of 26 points. Mitchell describes the feeling of being ‘on fire’.
Thanks to a tip-off from great friend of the podcast, Jim McIlvaine, I ask Mitchell about his acting career. We briefly discuss his roles in Blue Chips (1994) & Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (1996). Mitchell talks about his involvement with Space Jam (1996), however, his scenes were ultimately cut from the movie.
Season: 1996-97 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Coach: P.J. Carlesimo
Prior to the 1997 season, Washington traded Mitchell (along with Rasheed Wallace) to Portland, in return for Harvey Grant and Rod Strickland. We talk about Mitchell’s thoughts on the deal. Butler made it to the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career – playing limited minutes in a four-game series loss to the L.A. Lakers. He talks about how it felt to be part of a playoff team.
Seasons: 1997-98 – 1998-99 | Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Coach: Mike Fratello
Mitchell signed as a free agent with Cleveland. Barely a month into the season, he suffered significant neck and shoulder problems, leading to surgery. He talks about the impact the injury had on his career, and how he dealt with news that he’d miss the rest of the season.
Following the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Butler wouldn’t return to the NBA until the 2001-02 campaign. During that gap in his NBA résumé, he headed overseas and played in Lithuania, before returning home and playing in the American Basketball Association (not related to the original ABA, I should add).
Season: 2001-02 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Coach: Maurice Cheeks
Mitchell returned to the Trail Blazers franchise, signing as a free agent. He discusses what it was like to be back in the NBA and how his second time with the team, differed so much to his 1997 season.
Prior to his final season in the NBA, Mitchell was a key member of the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) Yakima Sun Kings. His team won the 2003 Championship. He reflects fondly on his time in the league.
Season: 2003-04 | Team: Washington Wizards
Coach: Eddie Jordan
Butler closed out his NBA-playing career, returning to suit up for the Washington Wizards. We chat about his final season, what opportunities presented themselves and whether he could have played on, beyond 2004.
Mitchell featured in a number of Top 10 Plays on NBA Action. I asked him to choose his favorite move and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
I ask Mitchell to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. In a first for the podcast, he shares three-memorable games – one each from high school, college and the NBA.
We discuss Mitchell’s career in basketball since he retired as a player. He’s been involved in various roles, most recently, accepting a position as a sports agent at Jackson Management Group (owned by Phil Jackson‘s son, Charles).
Our conversation rounds out with a quick chat about the significance of Mitchell’s jersey numbers.
People mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Adams, Tyus Edney, Darrick Martin, Chris Webber, Jim McIlvaine, Vernon Maxwell, Allan Houston, Kenny Anderson, Tracy Murray, James Robinson & Ed O’Bannon.
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