A Caron Butler Surprise
Anthony Fadel had met Caron Butler once before. The Centreville High sophomore had a friend whose cousin lives two doors down from the Butlers, and they stopped by once and rang the doorbell. Caron's wife came to the door.
"We didn't know what to say," Anthony told me. "We were just like, 'Is Caron there?' She was like, 'One second'."
Then Caron came out to chat. So understandably, Anthony has been partial to Butler, and he told his mom how cool it would be to have Caron over one day to hang out and play some basketball. So when his mom was planning Anthony's surprise 16th birthday party, she had her 13-year-old daughter Kristen drop off an invitation at the Butler home.
"I wasn't going to go myself; the little girl can always get away with it," Anthony's mom, Marie, told me with a laugh.
The invite said the Fadels would hold the surprise party any day in the month of May, if Caron were willing to come, even if just for five minutes. They never heard back from him. A week later they went back with another invite, and he came to the door and said maybe. They never heard back from him.
So the party planning went on. On the day of the surprise, May 12, Anthony's dad took him out to the driving range. About a dozen friends came over and waited in the basement.
"And then I see a black Range Rover coming up my driveway," Marie told me. "I looked out and I said 'Oh my God, Caron Butler is here."
She went into the basement and told Anthony's friends who had arrived. They thought it was some sort of code word or nickname for Anthony.
"I said 'No no, Caron Butler, from the Wizards, the real one'," Marie told me.
So Caron came inside, and asked what she needed him to do.
"I said 'It's a surprise party, everyone's in the basement'," Marie recalled, and so Caron Butler went down into the basement to watch the NBA playoffs with a bunch of high school sophomores who were waiting to surprise their buddy. About 10 minutes later, Anthony arrived home, with his dad.
"We just went downstairs, opened the door to the basement, and Caron Butler's just over there chilling with my friends," Anthony told me. "I couldn't say anything. I was just shocked."
So the birthday party carried on. They all sat in the basement and watched the second half of Cavs-Nets, Game 3. The Fadels offered Caron food; Anthony told me he only accepted a Pepsi. He posed for pictures, and gave Anthony a signed pair of sneakers and a signed poster that he had brought. Then, as he was leaving, he took out his cell phone, made a call and handed the phone to Anthony.
"I just kind of grabbed it and it was Gilbert Arenas on the phone," Anthony told me. "I was just, like, shocked. So I talked to Gilbert for a little bit. He said happy birthday to me. I asked him about his leg."
Then Caron left, in the Range Rover. Then the 15 boys played five-on-five basketball, according to plans.
"We were like, 'We just hung out with an NBA all-star player'," said Youssif Aziz, who was at the party. "It just made the night right there."
"It was awesome," Anthony summarized.
WRC found out about the party through Lindsay Czarniak's hairdresser's son; they ran a piece a few weeks ago, which I never saw at the time, but which you can watch here. I found out about the event via a friend of Anthony's, who reads my blog and e-mailed me the info. To their eternal credit, the Wizards made a concerted decision not to seek out birthday party coverage, figuring that would have made the gesture seem less genuine somehow.
Anyhow, I talked to Caron today. He said the invite had been hanging on his refrigerator, and that he didn't have anything going on that particular Saturday, and that it just seemed like a good idea. He said everyone in the community has been "real courteous and very kind" to him, and that local fans have supported him since he's been here, and that he just thought he should reciprocate.
"I thought it was a good thing to do, to make someone's dream come true," he told me. "It was just as rewarding for me as it was for him."
I asked whether he wasn't worried that every teenager in the D.C. area would immediately send him a birthday party invitation.
"I'm actually moving, so they'll have to find me first," he told me. "As long as I'm not doing anything, I don't have any problem going to anyone's birthday party. I'm not anti-social. It's good being around your fans."
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