Talk about facing adversity—Ronny Turiaf overcame life threatening heart problems on his way to reaching the NBA Finals with the Lakers in 2008. His inspiring journey to conquer all has led him to become one of the league’s better defensive big men.
Underneath it all, Turiaf is a fantastic human being, always focused on giving back to the community, lending a helping hand to others with heart related issues, raising awareness, and making sure they all continue to live life to the fullest.
Now, following an offseason trade, he is poised to be the starting center for the New York Knicks. He took time out of his busy schedule to chat, as it’s obvious to see the support of his fans is extremely important to him.
While he may be tough on the court, deep down inside Turiaf is as lighthearted, kind, and positive as he is determined.
Read on to see what he had to say about living in New York City, his career, and how he thinks his buddy Tony Parker would react to playing for Turiaf’s new team, the Knicks!
Q: What can Knicks fans expect from you this season?
A: Definitely some toughness. I am a guy with a high basketball I.Q. who makes his teammates better. I’m the type of player who steps up to make sure everyone is on the same page defensively.
I also think I can go back to my college days and become a scorer, if that’s what is needed of me in this new system. The only way I know how to play is to play hard. Go hard or go home, you know?
Q: You are good friends with countryman Boris Diaw, who played for Coach D’Antoni on the Suns. Did he give you any advice about playing in coach’s system?
A: I played against coach D’Antoni during my first three years in the league, so I am pretty familiar with the kind of offense that he runs. It’s a very fun offense to play in.
Boris told me it is a very free-flowing offense. He flourished under coach D’Antoni, so hopefully I can do the same. I am looking forward to it.
Q: Before signing with the Warriors, you played in a big market city as a member of the Lakers. Are you excited to play in a big market like that again?
A: To me, basketball is just basketball. I played in a big market like Los Angeles, so I expect the same success here in New York. I am expecting to help my teammates and to become a better player.
I have high expectations. This city needs a winner. This city needs excitement. Hopefully this new version of the New York Knicks can deliver that.
Q: Are you looking forward to living in New York City? I know you’ve already been spending time with Thierry Henry [Turiaf’s good friend and countryman who recently signed with the New York Red Bulls MLS team].
A: I’m actually a big Yankees fan, so I am looking forward to going out to some games. I am planning on taking over the Red Bulls fan club. I am looking forward to showing my boy some support, and hopefully he can come out to my games too.
I’m ready to embrace the whole New York City lifestyle. I have already visited some of the nice restaurants. Being in Time Square and sitting outside at the tables reminds me a lot of Paris. I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.
Q: You’re very well known as a player who is involved with the community. Talk about how you give back with your foundation, the “Heart to Heart Foundation”?
A: This is something that I am very proud of. I have always loved giving back to the community, and my foundation really took off with help from the Golden State Warriors’ community and great staff. I must thank them for all they have done.
As you know, in 2005, I overcame an enlarged aortic root, and underwent open heart surgery. That definitely gave me the strength to start raising awareness for heart related issues. In Golden State, I donated multiple defibrillators to local high schools. My friend’s brother actually passed out and almost lost his life due to lack of a defibrillator. Hopefully the community here in New York can embrace the fact that I’m trying to give back. I hope they see how passionate about this I am.
Q: You just spent part of your summer in South Africa with Boris. What were you guys doing there?
A: Boris and I decided to take a month-long vacation. It was something I needed after an NBA season that was hard on me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I took time off—went on a Safari for two weeks. After that, we traveled to Northern Africa. We worked with the local youth basketball clubs.
Seeing the type of conditions that these kids are practicing under proved to be a real awakening for me. You should have seen the faces of all the kids as I gave out shirts, shoes, basketballs, etc. It was very rewarding to see the happiness on everybody’s faces that I visited.
Q: You’ve been fortunate enough to play on the French National Team with guys like Boris and Tony Parker. What has having such an opportunity meant to you?
A: It’s always been a pleasure for me to play on the national team. We have a lot of things going our way. Hopefully, Joakim Noah will join us soon. I think we have an opportunity to be very good.
Q: You’ve obviously known Tony, whom the Knicks are rumored to be interested in, for a long time and have gotten to know him well. Do you think he would enjoy playing for the Knicks?
A: Tony would definitely embrace playing in a big market like New York. He would have a lot of fun in this offense, but that’s the potential future. Right now, he’s a member of the San Antonio Spurs and I know he is 100 percent committed to winning another championship there.
Q: Speaking of player movement, it’s obviously been a busy offseason for you and the rest of the NBA this summer. Do you have any thoughts?
A: It’s been an interesting summer. Obviously, there has been a lot of movement. It’s going to be an exciting season for basketball fans.
To learn more about Ronny Turiaf's Heart to Heart Foundation, visit his website
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