Interview With Ronny Turiaf: ‘Heart To Heart’

The NBA star might not even be here if not for modern heart medicine. Now he's giving back in a very unique way.

Evan Bleierby Evan Bleier

During the course of his career in the NBA, Minnesota Timberwolves power forward/center Ronny Turiaf has distinguished himself as a high-energy player with a knack for playing strong interior defense and functioning as the ultimate teammate.

In addition to competing against the top big men in the Association, Turiaf is currently facing off against another opponent – heart disease.

A second-round pick in the 2005 draft after leading the West Coast Conference in scoring during his senior year at Gonzaga, Turiaf almost had his NBA career end before it got started thanks to an enlarged aortic root in his heart that was discovered during a physical exam. In order to fix the potentially life-threatening condition, Turiaf underwent six hours of open-heart surgery at Stanford Medical Center. Less than six months later, the native of France debuted for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, nearly more than eight years later, Turiaf’s Heart to Heart Foundation has thrown a double-team at heart health issues by teaming up with Stryve Clothing to create limited-edition “Heart to Heart” custom socks in an effort to raise awareness about heart problems. Five dollars of each pair of socks sold will go directly to Heart to Heart Foundation and be used to provide health services to people in need.

 

Turiaf was kind enough to take some time out of his busy shot-swatting schedule (17 in his last five games) to talk about life in the league, eating BBQ and Heart to Heart.

 

You’ve played for seven different NBA teams – what’s the first thing you try to check out when you move to a new city?

No question, I always look out for places that my mother would love to visit. She comes out to visit me a portion of every season regardless of where I’m located. I have to make sure that I find her “go to” spots in the City. The Queen has to be happy.

 

Is there anything that you do to help adapt to a new role or having new teammates?

I’ve learned that the best policy is to be myself. Nothing scripted or rehearsed. I’ve been in this league for a while now and what I try to bring is effort, passion and enthusiasm for the game I love. I hope that I lead by example and show my teammates how much I love and value the game of basketball. I bring that each and every day.

 

Do you have a favorite city to play in either at home or on the road?

My favorite city to play in is Fort de France, Martinique. In front of my hometown friends and family. That’s where it all started. There is no place like home.

 

During your career you’ve really excelled where a lot of guys struggle – on defense. Do you approach the game in a certain way or have a particular mindset to help you excel in that area?

Defense is about passion and effort. It’s a want to proposition and I definitely want to. Every time I suit up, defensively, my goals are to maintain my assignment, protect the basket and make sure my teammates know that I’ve got their backs.

 

You seem like you have a pretty active Twitter account – what’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever posted?

You mean Twitter isn't ridiculous all together?

 

I hear you are a big BBQ fan. What’s your favorite go-to food?

No question. Sushi and hand rolls. Lobster rolls specifically. Although recent events have made me begin to change my mind. So, on that note, I may have to change my go to food. Stay tuned…

 

You’ve accomplished so much in your NBA career on and off the court. Can you tell me a little more about your foundation's mission and initiatives?

In the beginning, we were working to promote heart health and provide screenings, primarily in California and New York. But once the screenings were finding people with heart problems, many who couldn’t afford the proper treatment, we began working with doctors and groups to find creative ways to pay for treatments and help families who needed it. We are also providing health services, including EKG’s and defibrillators, to children and schools in need.

 

Where did the idea of the “Heart to Heart” custom socks campaign come from?

This particular collaboration was a blend of my love for fashion and an effort to spread heart health awareness through my Heart to Heart Foundation. February is Heart Health Month, and I wanted to do something impactful and all-inclusive this year. So we partnered with Stryve Clothing, a young, up-and-coming company with a desire to give back to the community, to create Heart to Heart custom socks. Like I said, I’ve always had an interest in fashion, especially socks, so being a part of the design process was a fun, creative way to express myself and champion the cause.

 

Have you been able to get any of your teammates in Minnesota to wear them?

Of course. Each of my teammates received a pair, and I’ve seen them pop up from time to time in the locker room. It’s cold this time of year in Minnesota, so I know the socks were a much appreciated wardrobe addition. Plus, I think they’re pretty cool looking as well.

 

In addition to playing for the Lakers and T'wolves, Turiaf has also suited up for the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers. The socks are available here and each $5 sale goes directly to the Heart to Heart Foundation. Follow Ronny on Twitter at @Ronny_Turiaf or check him out on his website.

Evan Bleier is a freelance writer based out of wherever he can plug in his laptop. You can send him questions, comments and Buffalo wing suggestions @itishowitis or "like" CraveOnline Sports on Facebook

Photo Credit: Getty