Imagine being drafted by the Lakers, seeing your dreams come true… Only to be told by team doctors that you need immediate open heart surgery for an over inflated aortic root.
One of Turiaf’s attending physicians/cardiologist said there was a 75% chance he would have had a fatal episode within a three year period.
"The usual way it might present itself is with a person bleeding, collapsing to the floor and dying."
Turiaf was told "Basketball should be the least of your worries" and that he might never play again.... But Ronny had other plans.
"I will not let my family down. I’m gonna get through it. I’ll be back on this court. They’re gonna have to kill me"
The newly drafted center had no money, no insurance and a 2 year deal that was being potentially canceled by the Lakers, who had no more obligations towards him, considering the failed physical exam.
The organization did the right thing, by paying for the procedure and opting to keep the offer on the table.
Turiaf was eternally grateful to Kobe (who acted as a big brother to him) as well as Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak, who cared for him despite believing he would never play basketball again.
"I told Mitch Kupchak to bring a jersey to the hospital. He came to see me, and I had tubes in my neck — tubes everywhere. But I told him, 'I’m gonna rock that No. 21. I guarantee you.' He didn’t believe me. I know he didn’t."
Seven months later, he was back on the court, "playing harder than anybody on the team", according to our initial Venice Beach Surfer who referred to the kid as a GOD.