Ronny Turiaf has a massive scar -- from open heart surgery -- down the front of his chest. He has heard doctors say terrifying things. He doesn't need a lecture from anyone about the more serious aspects of life.
But he's of the opinion -- as am I -- that you can work your tail off, be smart, focused, alert, tough, and a winner while still hooting, hollering, and dancing once in a while.
So that's precisely what he did, for the early part of his career. He worked hard, he improved, he played his brains out, and once in a while he just unleashed a big celebratory boogie.
His dancing is all over YouTube.
That's not the kind of thing superstars normally do. A lot of players are far too reserved, or cool. But not Turiaf, who is overflowing with way too much life to bother trying to be cool most of the time.
Turiaf says that he can even endure that dreaded "energy player" tag. It's a label most players shun. (Not only does it imply they are less skilled, but it also tends not to come with a fat contract.)
"People can call me an energy guy," he says, "as long as they realize I also have skills. I don't think the Lakers drafted me just because they wanted someone to run around with a lot of energy. They were looking for someone to do certain things, even shoot. And if my feet are set, and I'm open, I'm going to let it fly."
"Energy player" is one thing. "Cheerleader" is another. Ronny Turiaf does not want to be called a cheerleader. And that's exactly what he has been hearing. From fans. From opponents. From people. And he's determined to put a stop to it.
So that's why, this season, Ronny Turiaf is hardly dancing at all. Tonight he started the game, and finished 4-12 from the floor with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, four blocks, and just one tiny little boogie only when the game was really exciting deep in the second half.
I told him that it was no good letting a bunch of cranks steal his fun. If he keeps playing well, and the Lakers keep winning, why shouldn't he be dancing every game?
"If everyone says that I am not a cheerleader," he says in the locker room, after the game, with a little snap and a shimmy, "then OK, I can get dancing again."
But until then? We're out of luck.
So, please, everyone, do me this little favor to make the NBA a more fun place for all of us. Spread the word that Ronny Turiaf is an excellent basketball player, and by no means a cheerleader.
Then he can get dancing again.
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)