Last week, Ronny Turiaf signed a lucrative (for his role) contract of 4 year for approximately $17 million. It hit me like a cold slap in the face. It came out of nowhere, and was totally unexpected. I realized that day, that the Lakers would probably not match that high of an offer, and I would have to write this goodbye not only from me, but from the entire Lakers Nation.
Ronny Turiaf was the 37th draft pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. I remember that night well, when they announced the Lakers had picked Ronny, I was pumped up, I knew what Ronny was about, I knew the things that he did at Gonzaga to help make them a powerhouse in the early part of this decade. I couldn’t wait to have his energy on our Lakers club. I thought to myself, here is what we have been missing, Mark Madsen, but with actual talent.
Then 4 weeks later, the Lakers Nation mourned when news broke about Ronny Turiaf’s heart. He was in need of open heart surgery, that took place on July 26, 2005. The Lakers had to wave him, but held on to his rights and paid for the entire procedure. The surgery lasted around 6 hours, and it was expected to take up to a year for him to recover. But Mr. Turiaf and his big heart had ideas of his own. Ideas that would bring him back to the game he loved a heck of a lot sooner.
He started rehab and began working as hard as he could. He signed with the CBA’s Yakuma Sun Kings to try and speed things up. He played 9 games for them averaging 13 PPG and 6.3 RBG. The Lakers noticed the great things Ronny had accomplished, and on January 17th less than 6 months after the operation, Ronny was back in the NBA, and back with the Purple and Gold.
It was easy to see that this man had a passion for the game, and the he was the type of person that had great character, someone who every team that wants to be successful needs to have.
On the second game of the 2007-2007 NBA season, Ronny Turiaf scored career highs in almost every category against the Golden State Warriors. Most notably 8/10 shooting with 23 points. Lakers fans and Lakers Management alike began to realize they had someone who was special.
Last season, Ronny was very valuable to the Lakers as he played big minutes with an injury depleted frontcourt. Probably none bigger than the 9 game stretch late in the season when Pau Gasol sprained his ankle. Ronny put up solid numbers as he was now starting and playing 30 minutes a game while averaging 11 PPG, 6 RBG, and 2 BPG. All though the Lakers only went 5-4 on this stretch, including to horrible losses to the Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center, Ronny helped it from being a complete disaster.
With Gasol back, his minutes were sliced, but he still showed the same energy and passion game in and game out. Every Lakers fan can remember him yelling “Sashaaa Vujacicccc!!!,” and “ I love you, Sasha!!!!!!!!” While the Lakers ended up short of their NBA Championship goal, there was never a dull moment with Turiaf’s passion.
Ronny Turiaf’s life like so many of ours has been like a dangerous battlefield. And he has won almost every single one of them. He made it into the NBA, beat open-heart surgery, started playing basketball again in record time, got resigned by the Lakers, helped start the bench mob, became a core piece to the 2008 Western Conference Champion Lakers team, and finally got a lucrative contract offer from the Golden State Warriors that he accepted.
While I will extremely miss Ronny, I know he did what he thought was best for his family. I mean he knows as well as anyone you never know how long your going to be able to play sports professionally, you need to get as much money as you can to support your family, because one day, it will all be over for everyone.
So Ronny if you read this know I LOVE YOU, the entire LAKERS NATION LOVES YOU!
We are thankful for the role model you have been in Los Angeles, showing everyone that they can overcome whatever obstacles life throws your way, with hard work, dedication, and most important faith.
Thanks for the memories, Ronny.