Yet the role of scorer somehow validated him. "I got addicted to playing in front of big crowds," he says. "I couldn't stand in front of five people and talk, but I could play in front of thousands and somehow open up."
The very night Butler sprang for 41 in a defeat of UNLV, Larry Bird was held to four. "That's what won it," he says of his 1979 scoring championship. "In his last game Bird had to score 67 to overtake me. I saw it on TV. He scored 49, and I was sweating."
Midway through that season Butler's grandmother died of pneumonia. "When she was living, I always wanted to be something special for her," he says. "After she died, it was like, why? If I made the Big Court, I couldn't share it." He came within minutes of making it too. He tried out with the Chicago Bulls, and as the team was about to leave for the West Coast on its first preseason swing, Butler noticed his gear had been packed. Trainer Doug Atkinson even congratulated him on making the club. Moments later he was fetched from the shower and told the bad news—he hadn't made it after all. "After that, I just never did recover. I never felt good about myself after not making the Big Court."
So Lawrence Butler protests. Yet he has every reason to feel good about himself. He has settled in Slater, a short drive from Glasgow past thick cornfields. Though he and his wife, Blanche, are divorced, she and their daughters, LaShanna and LaTosha, live in nearby Marshall, a few miles down the road. Butler works with retarded children and adults in Marshall. He has a mentally ill brother, Roosevelt, 90 minutes away in Kansas City and sees him every month or so. "I want to learn as much as I can about that type of person, because one day I want to take Roosevelt in here with me," Butler says. "Maybe I can help him on a one-on-one basis."
Lawrence Butler never made it to the Big Court, but a small town has made something of him.
Until Jakubick won his scoring title in 1984, Bob McCurdy had the perfect icebreaker for his first meeting with a client. "Sales," says McCurdy, now a vice-president of Katz Radio, the nation's leading radio advertising firm, "is nothing but positioning and selling." This is positioning:
"You know your hoops?"
"You get this one right, you can have my Mercedes."
Go ahead. Shoot.