NBA player Rasual Butler was killed alongside his wife in a tragic car accident in the early hours of January 31. TMZ reports that Butler and his wife, Leah Labelle, were both killed in a crash that occurred at around 2 a.m. in Studio City, California. The TMZ report says that Butler lost control of his car, a Range Rover, and slammed into a wall after hitting a parking meter. The photo published by TMZ shows the car flipped over.
Butler was drafted in 2002 to the Miami Heat and had a long NBA career that included spells in Washington and Indiana. More recently, Butler was seen playing in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. LaBelle Came in 12th on the 3rd Season of American Idol in 2004
In 2003, LaBelle began her musical career by performing on the third season of American Idol. Labelle auditioned in New York City singing Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me.” LaBelle made it to the semi finals where she was eliminated. Though LaBelle would return for the wild car episode but failed to qualify beyond that stage. Among the songs that LaBelle sang were “I Have Nothing,” also by Whitney Houston, and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. LaBelle said that after her run on the show, she was forced to return to Garfield High School in Seattle.
An October 2006 Seattle Times feature on LaBelle said that after Idol and high school, she went to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. One of her classmates was fellow Idol alumni John Stevens. LaBelle told the newspapers, “I love it, I’m just feeling so much more motivated out here to really work harder for what I want. I needed to get out of Seattle. I had to just come into my own world, my own zone and really appreciate me and my music.”
Read More From Heavy
Cassandra Anderson; Kevin Durant’s Rumored New Girlfriend
2. Her Pop-Star Parents Defected From Communist Bulgaria in 1979
Facebook/Leah LaBelleLaBelle’s mother Sia Vladowski.
LaBelle was born in Toronto to Troshan and Anastasia Vladowski in 1986. Her parents were pop stars in their native Bulgaria. In 1979, the couple defected to the west during a tour away from their Communist home. LaBelle wrote a touching tribute to her mother on Facebook in May 2013 that read, “special picture of my mama, taken not too long after she escaped to America w/ my dad to create a life for me in the free world. i am forever indebted to her & forever grateful for the sacrifices she has made for me to assure my happiness & sanity. she is the definition of unconditional. LOVE YOU MAMA @firecracker54 I will never be able to show you enough.” The post was accompanied by the above photo. LaBelle’s mother goes by the Twitter moniker, Firecracker54. LaBelle’s mother also maintains an acting profile at Explore Talent. According to her Facebook page, Sia Vladowski was the soprano in the group, Tonika, from Bulgaria.
It was LaBelle’s mother who told the Seattle Times that the singer had turned down an offer to work with Beyonce’s one-time producer, Fanatic. Vladowski said, “He really loved her, but the contract they were offering was too bindiing.”
Read More From Heavy
Glendon Crain, Stormy Daniels’ Husband: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
3. Butler Stood Up to Haters in 2015 Who Criticized Him for Being in a Mixed Race Relationship
In May 2015, after Butler shared some photos of him and LaBelle on Instagram, trolls began criticizing him for being in a mixed race relationship. Butler, then playing for Washington, responded with a lengthy post saying:
Good day everyone hope everyone has a great day! For those who have a problem with my relationship because it’s interracial just don’t like our pictures! You don’t have a choice with who you fall in Love with or the circumstances that cause the Love to happen! You don’t know me or her! And what’s sad is my Grandfather marched for civil rights and his words to me was don’t you dare practice racism in anyway He accepts my Woman and the rest of my family!
I Love my race and love our beautiful Black women! In life you meet and connect with those you’re meant to. Don’t be a hypocrite and say that interracial relationships are wrong but turn around and don’t want to be discriminated against! I never respond to things so this will be the last of this but some people need to check themselves! And for the record I’m well aware of who I am and my History! God bless to those lovely people out there who always send me Good vibes they’re being sent right back to you! #learntolivetogether
4. When LaBelle Signed to Epic Records, She Was Welcomed With a Lavish Dinner Party Attended by Pharrell Williams & Mariah Carey
LaBelle signed to Epic Records in April 2012. According to a Rap Up report at the time, to welcome LaBelle to the Epic family, she was treated to lavish dinner attended by Pharrell Williams, Mariah Carey and Jermaine Dupri. At the time, LaBelle tweeted, “An EPIC moment at my dinner tonight. I can’t even express my joy.” LaBelle’s debut single with the label, “Sexify” (Above), was produced by Pharrell.
LaBelle told the Seattle Times that her musical love is R&B saying, “I want to bring real music back but make it marketable and mainstream. To me real music isn’t everything being synthesized, computerized.”
Read More From Heavy
Philomena Sheahan: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
5. There Has Been an Outpouring of Emotion on Twitter Mourning the Couple
There has been an outpouring of emotion at the news of Butler and LaBelle’s deaths. Here some of the most poignant messages from some of the NBA and hip-hop’s biggest names:
So sad this morning to here about my friend and teammate 😢 RIP Rasual Butler appreciate the people around u because u never kno 😔😔😔
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) January 31, 2018
Rest easy my brother. See you when I get there!!! pic.twitter.com/Npsnib7k5t
— Allen Iverson (@alleniverson) January 31, 2018
Words can’t express this one… Rasual Butler was my guy since our days chilling with Charlie Mack… Two Philly cats in San Antonio when he was with #Spurs … was so dope. RIP Sual! Thanks for everything bro! 😢😢😢😢 pic.twitter.com/dFc5RmXNVe
— Jabari Young (@JabariJYoung) January 31, 2018
Rest In Peace Rasual Butler…
— Joe Budden (@JoeBudden) January 31, 2018
Man I hope that story bout Rasual Butler false…….Prayers up for his family.
— Mario Chalmers (@mchalmers15) January 31, 2018
Rip to the homie Rasual Butler & his wife!! Condolences to the butler family & friends. Damn Bro 🙏🏽😪
— Matt Barnes (@Matt_Barnes22) January 31, 2018
Can’t comprehend what I just heard about my former teammate @RasualButler45 and his wife!!! REST IN PEACE people. DAMNNNNN😢
— Garrett Temple (@GTemp14) January 31, 2018
Rasual Butler was cooler than a fan.. back when he played for the Heat, he was always a joy to be around & did much for the Miami community. RIP to he & his wife.
— Benji Brown (@benjibrown1) January 31, 2018
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. Our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of Rasual and Leah. They will be missed. pic.twitter.com/djezmpHd5h
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 31, 2018
Butler and LaBelle did not have any kids together. Butler had a daughter, Raven, from a previous relationship. In August 2016, Butler went viral after he gave his daughter a new car on her first day of college.
To my Daughter Raven Suvea Moriss Butler I Love u with all my heart! U r my everything! All that matters to me! Ur my #1 girl! Ur my world!
— Rasual Butler (@RasualButler45) July 18, 2010
The Indy Star reported in December 2013 that Butler had made it out of training camp to line out for the Pacers. Butler credited his daughter as being a motivating factor behind his efforts. He told the newspaper that while he was trying to make it back, Raven chose to live with him full time which motivated him as he felt he had something to prove.
Read More From Heavy
Jen Selter: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know