Rasual Butler and his wife, former American Idol contestant, Leah LaBelle, both died in a car accident early Wednesday in Studio City, California.
Butler, 38, – a former NBA player for many teams including Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors, the L.A. Clippers, the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards – reportedly lost control of his Range Rover at about 2 a.m. before striking a parking meter.
The car flipped before slamming into a wall. NBC Los Angeles reported that police said the vehicle was traveling at speeds two to three times higher than the limit.
Butler and Belle, 31, who came in 12th place during season 3 of American Idol in 2004, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Rasual Butler and his wife Leah LaBelleAs news of their passing broke Wednesday, Butler and LaBelle’s friends took to social media to remember the couple, including former NBA player Kobe Bryant and singer JoJo.
“Rest In Peace my brother #RasualButler,” Bryant tweeted.
“Leah. beautiful sister from another mister. You will NEVER EVER be forgotten. Your voice. Your spirit. Your light. Cannot comprehend what this loss means. Thinking about your unwavering faith in God brings me peace. I love you, forever angel,” JoJo tweeted.
The “Save My Soul” singer also shared a tribute on Instagram, writing, “That SMILE. That VOICE. That inside-out GLOW. My @leahlabelle . My sister. Woke up this morning and heard you were gone. This can’t be real. I just replayed the voice note you sent me on my birthday. Please someone assure me this is not real.”
She continued, “And that we are still gonna meet up and sing and harmonize and encourage each other and laugh our asses off real soon. LEAH You have the light of GOD inside you. Everyone you touched was blessed by your presence. PURE. You were GENUINE. The REAL THING. Can’t believe I’m writing about you in the past tense!!!!! And you and @rasualbutler8 ‘s relationship was SUCH A BEAUTIFUL LOVE TO WITNESS AND FEEL. Best friends, believers, partners. A love that survived so much. We want and need more from you both. I cannot accept that the two of you are gone. Leah, you are my sister. I love you. and I feel so fortunate that you were in my life. Sing with the angels in heaven. You were an angel on earth.”
Dwyane Wade remembered Butler on Instagram, sharing a photo of the two from their rookie year on the Miami Heat basketball team.
“Rasual and i my rookie year in Miami. This was my first public appearance and i was nervous to go along—So Sual joined to make it easier on me,” Wade wrote. “That’s who he was—A great individual that was always there for people when they needed him. Today is a sad day—Sual’s family, his wife’s family and his NBA family mourn the lost of a great man. R.I.P philly boy Rasual Butler!”
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love shared his condolences in a tweet, writing, “Incredibly sad news to hear about Rasual Butler and his wife Leah. Prayers to both of their families through this tough time.”
Pharrell Williams remembered LaBelle on Instagram with a tribute.
“@leahlabelle , your spirit was just as your voice; beautiful. Moments like these leave us with so many questions,” he wrote in the caption. “What I don’t question is how much you loved God, how much you love your life partner and where you guys are now. Sing Sis, sing. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾”
The Miami Heat, a team Butler once played for, shared a statement on Twitter to remember the former basketball player. Friends of LaBelle’s, fellow American Idol contestants also shared their grief on Instagram.
“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,” the statement read.
Fantasia Taylor, American Idol season 3 winner, wrote, “@leahlabelle RIP Angel 😇 I’m sitting here STUCK LIKE NOOOOOOO WAYYYYYYY!!! May the both of you Rest In Peace.”
George Huff, a top five contestant on the same season as Taylor and LaBelle, wrote, “My heart is broken! 💔 R.I.P. 👼🏽👼🏽 #angels #LeahLaBelle#RasualButler”
The NBA also shared its condolences, writing, “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle. A pro’s pro, Rasual enjoyed a long, successful career and was widely respected by his peers and coaches. We grieve with their loved ones during this difficult time.”
The Indiana Pacers also tweeted: “Our entire organization is deeply saddened after learning of the death of former Pacers player Rasual Butler and his wife, Leah LaBelle.”
The Toronto Raptors issued statements from the team’s president Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey.
“I had the pleasure of knowing Rasual through the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program when we traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa together in 2006,” Ujiri’s statement read. “His passion for the game was infectious to everyone he encountered. Rasual was a sincere and caring young man who has left us too soon. We want to express my condolences to his family.”
Casey said, “Rasual was one of the original members of our program when I started here in 2012. His work ethic and enthusiasm for the game were the mark of a true professional. He was a pleasure to coach and will be missed. On behalf of his former coaches and teammates, we want to offer our sincerest condolences to the families involved.”
Rapper and actor Ice Cube also issued a short statement on the deaths of Butler and LaBelle, tweeting, “Very sad to hear about my guy Rasual and his wife Leah. Great people. Such a lost. Please pray for the family.”
Butler was drafted out of La Salle by the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2002 NBA draft. He went on to play for the Heat, Hornets, Clippers, Bulls, Raptors, Pacers, Wizards and Spurs from 2002 to 2016. Most recently, Butler was expected to play a second season in the BIG3 League.
The deaths were first reported by TMZ.