RONNY TURIAF IS THE IDEAL TEAMMATE

Clippers forward Ronny Turiaf is known as one of the best teammates in the league, but for the carefree 29-year-old native of Martinique, making a positive impact on and off the court comes naturally.

Turiaf, along with teammates and Clippers staff at community event
Turiaf, along with teammates and Clippers staff, distributed turkeys, food baskets, clothes and books at St. Joseph Center on November 16, in Los Angeles.

To know what kind of teammate Ronny Turiaf is all you had to do was hear him interrupt one.

A few minutes after practice, while fellow Clippers newcomer Jamal Crawford was speaking to a handful of reporters near the team’s weight room, Turiaf was walking by, when he heard the line of questioning about Crawford’s role as a sixth man.

“The most underrated two-guard in the league, right here,” Turiaf said, poking his head between Crawford and the interviewers. “You can print that.”

And with that, the good-natured, energetic big man smiled and sauntered into the locker room.

Turiaf, in the midst of his eighth NBA season, has long held the reputation as a favorite among teammates. Crawford called him the “best” when asked what kind of teammate Turiaf is. And Heat forward Mike Miller credited Turiaf’s enthusiasm as a welcome addition to Miami’s locker room during last season’s run to the championship after the French forward/center was acquired late last March.

“We go through long, rigorous seasons,” Miller said. “And guys that come in with energy and spirit like he did is huge for any team trying to be successful and he was big piece of that.”

It’s Turiaf’s energy that made Clippers reserve center Ryan Hollins call him “an amazing teammate.”

“His energy, his IQ, he’s his own man,” Hollins added. “I don’t think Ronny cares what anybody thinks. He plays with a passion.

“I’d like to figure myself as guy who works hard on the court, but Ronny pushes me to another level and holding myself accountable. There may be a play where somebody would say, ‘It wasn’t your fault, you didn’t do bad.’ But Ronny will hold me accountable and he also lets me know when I do something well, so I really feed off him for energy.”

Hollins praised Turiaf for his ability to overcome a potential life-threatening heart condition, which required a six-hour open-heart surgical procedure to repair an enlarged aortic root in July 2005, shortly after Turiaf graduated as one of Gonzaga University’s all-time greats.

“As [most people know], he kind of had that heart surgery deal and to come back to the NBA you really look at life different and I really admire him for that,” Hollins said. “Every minute, every time you’re on the court, what he gives you is amazing. It’s really contagious, whether he’s in the game or not.”

Turiaf, who made his professional debut less than six months after the surgery, has long been known as an energetic player coming off the bench.

“I’m very comfortable with Ronny out there,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He can rebound the ball, plays with energy, [and makes] good basketball decisions.”

On Nov. 19 against San Antonio, Turiaf sat for the first 38 minutes of the game before getting the call from Del Negro after Hollins fouled out. Turiaf hustled into the game and in fewer than five minutes collected three offensive rebounds, made a key save and scored four points on put backs to help preserve a five-point win on the road.

The San Antonio game is indicative of Turiaf’s entire professional career. He has been a member of two NBA finalists (the Lakers in 2008 and Heat in 2012) and is seemingly prepared for anything or any role. He’s been a starter and a reserve, a high-minute player and someone who sees the court less often. Turiaf’s ability to adapt to what is asked of him is trait that carries into his personal life.

“I don’t try to be a good teammate; I don’t see myself like that,” Turiaf said. “I see myself as me. I love my life. I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have to be able to play in the NBA, coming where I come from, a small little island in middle of the West Indies with a population of about 400,000. I made it here, so I’m just happy with where I am.”

Martinique, the island in the Lesser Antilles where Turiaf was born and lived until he was a teenager, is a blot in the Eastern Caribbean Sea between the islands of St. Lucia to the south and Dominica to the north. It was claimed as a colony by the French in 1635 and remained so for more than three centuries until the island was unanimously voted by the French National Assembly in 1946 to transition into an overseas department.

Turiaf, now 29, left Martinique when he was 15 to attend the National Institute of Physical Education in Paris, which he said was an easy decision at the time.

“I don’t try to be a good teammate; I don’t see myself like that. I see myself as me. I love my life. I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have to be able to play in the NBA, coming where I come from, a small little island in middle of the West Indies with a population of about 400,000." - Ronny Turiaf

“I met a coach and he said I should start playing basketball,” Turiaf said. “One thing led to another, I was lucky to go to a tournament in France. At this tournament, it just happened that some recruiter was there. He liked what I brought and asked me to come to Paris to come to the institute. At the time it was a really easy decision because I was not going on the right path where I was from, so it was good for me to get away from my daily surroundings.”

He spent three years in Paris, where he met future NBA players Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Jerome Moiso and Johan Petro. They all remain friends today. Turiaf called Moiso and Petro, who is a reserve center on the Atlanta Hawks, “big brother figures” and teamed up again with Parker and Diaw on the French national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“Obviously, Tony and Boris are two of my closes friends in the world,” Turiaf said. “We’ve spent every summer together since we were 15 years old, so we have our share of fun stories.”

Turiaf is truly an international man. He’s a global traveler with a goal of seeing “every country in the world,” speaks five languages including French, English, Spanish, Italian and Creole, and is a leading advocate for heart health. He operates “The Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation” to provide health services including EKGs, heart surgeries and defibrillators to children and schools in need.

“Life is precious,” Turiaf said. “For me to be able to be in a situation where I can give back to the community is something that I definitely value and is something that I am very happy to be able to do. I do things with my foundation here but also my foundation back in the Caribbean to pay for surgeries for kids and do things with various doctors and organizations and surgeons down there.”

For more information on The Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation please visit: ronnyturiaf21.org

He’s also hosted celebrity games for charity, helped build community basketball courts, and conducted youth basketball clinics. Of course, one of the tenants of learning basketball from Ronny Turiaf: teamwork.

“A good teammate for me is somebody that is first and foremost a good guy,” Turiaf said. “Someone that’s positive and that’s bringing people up off the court; and on the court somebody that cares about the team and wants to do whatever that’s in their capabilities to help the team.”

Through 15 games, his 13 Clippers teammates know this side of Turiaf more than any other.