RONNY TURIAF AS BEAST

In the final part of a five-part series comparing the Clippers bench to the X-Men band of superheroes, Ronny Turiaf is compared to Dr. Hank McCoy aka Beast.

Ronny Turiaf

Fear is often perceived as an unpleasant emotion that signifies weakness. Heroes and athletes are taught to play without fear; that it’s a word that should be erased from their vocabulary altogether. But sometimes, confronting one’s fear can be the catalyst that brings about change and helps inspire good in others. For the X-Men’s Beast (a.k.a. Dr. Hank McCoy), fear was the motivator that helped shape his path to success.

Despite his intellect and witty sense of humor, Beast was initially shunned by society because of his physical abnormalities and eventual fur covered body. But Beast confronted his fear of social rejection and remained dedicated to using his intelligence and gifts to help better the world for both mutants and man. For the Clippers’ Ronny Turiaf, he too had to confront a fear and physical ailment of his own in order to become who he is today.

BEAST IN THE MAKING

Beast’s father worked at a local nuclear power plant in Illinois prior to his son’s birth. He was once exposed to intense amounts of nuclear radiation, which was the contributing factor in Beast’s genetic mutation. Beast was born with arms and legs that were longer and larger than that of a normal human. As a kid, he excelled in school athletics before he was ostracized by the students and other non-mutants. Fortunately, he found refuge at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. At the school, his skills truly began to flourish. In addition to being an ideal physical specimen, Beast also possessed a genius-level intellect. He became a renowned biochemist and fluent in nine languages, including English, French, German and Spanish, among others.

A few years after joining the school, Beast briefly left the X-Men and joined the Brand Corporation as a biophysicist, and it was there that he tested an experimental mutation serum on himself that permanently transformed him into the blue-furred creature with pointed ears, fangs and claws that we all know and love today. One of the side effects of the physical transformation for Beast was the sometimes overpowering animalistic instincts he felt, and on more than one occasion he would slip into uncontrollable fits of rage.  Shunned by society, he eventually returned to Xavier’s School to act as a teacher, where he continued his quest of advocating peace among humans and mutants.

A CHAMPION

Turiaf’s path to success is similar to that of Beast’s. First off, Turiaf is a gifted intellect in his own right. He is fluent in five languages including English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Creole, and also attended his own version of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, going to the INSEP (National Institute of Physical Education) in Paris, France at the age of 15. The institute combined the rigors of education with elite athletic training, and was a perfect home for someone as gifted as Turiaf. A year after joining the school, Turiaf made it as a member of the French Under 18 National Team—joining future NBA stars like Tony Parker and Boris Diaw—and soon helped his team win the European title.   

Turiaf’s future appeared to be just as bright and limitless when he came to the United States to play for Gonzaga University. During his time at Gonzaga, Turiaf was named First Team All-West Coast Conference and even garnered the award for WCC Player of the Year in his senior season. Turiaf also graduated with a degree in Sports Management and Communication. His intellect and physical gifts were evident, and after four years he was ready to take his talents to the next level: the NBA.

But after being drafted 37th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005, Turiaf’s dream of playing in the NBA soon hit an unforeseen roadblock. A physical exam revealed a potentially life-threatening condition in his heart. He had an enlarged aortic root, which required surgery and put his career in doubt. The Lakers voided Turiaf’s contract and he underwent a successful six-hour open-heart surgery. For some people, confronting a fear such as their own mortality might be enough to scare them away from a profession where their life may be at risk. But just as Beast overcame his perceived physical ailment to fight for his dream, so too did Turiaf. Less than six months after surgery, Turiaf was back in the NBA, proving that nothing was going to stop him from playing.

And this season, Turiaf’s first with the Clippers, it’s clear that his love for the game is as strong as ever. When Turiaf is on the floor you can see the energy and passion he plays with: it’s palpable. He’s the benevolent big man of the Clippers, cheering his team on from the sideline, running down every loose ball when he’s on the court, and even working to get the crowd into the game. More importantly, Turiaf’s energy and passion is what Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro wanted from him after he signed with the team last summer. “He just tells me to be me,” Turiaf said of Del Negro earlier this season. “It’s been a while since I was told to just be me.”

Beast and Turiaf also used their fear and ailment to help educate others. Beast became a teacher to the younger mutants at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and remained a lifelong proponent of peace between humans and mutants. Despite the ridicule he’d endured during his life, Beast chose a path of righteousness and peace, something other mutants in his position may not have done. He used his fear of social rejection as a way to inspire people and to get them to understand that the perceived differences between man and mutant were nothing more than social fabrications designed to divide.

For Turiaf, his eye-opening experience from open-heart surgery inspired him to start the Ronny Turiaf Heart-to-Heart Foundation, which looks to spread the awareness of heart health and education to underprivileged children and families. Turiaf has used his NBA stardom as a way to inspire good in the people and communities he’s encountered throughout his career.  

Colin J. Liotta is the co-founder of the website The Sports Hero along with his wife, Bushra, and acts as the Editor-in-Chief. The website combines sports and comics into one place for fans of both genres. See more of Colin's work at www.thesportshero.com