I know most of us here at CC could care less about old UK athletes, but let me pause here to say the world is a sadder place today after Mel Turpin's suicide.
I knew Turp during the '83-84 season which I spent with his UK team while writing a book about them for the CJ. And I came to know Turpin as one of the most likable people on the face of the earth. He was a talented player, to be sure, but I came to know him as a humble and shy kid trapped in the body of a giant.
He never had a cross word for anyone, and was one of the most self-effacing players I ever met. Remember, this came at a time when players are revered, when it's easy for them to slide into arrogance and self-importance. Not Melvin. He was a simple guy with what he admitted were limited academic skills — though he was never the dunce some critics made him out to be. He was happy, period. Which makes his suicide even more disturbing and perplexing. How could such a happy guy slip into such a state of despair?
I'll quit with one absolutely true Melvin story. He had weight issues, of course, and when traded by the Washington Bullets to the Utah Jazz, they surfaced. The day of the trade, Washington listed Melvin at 6-11, 290. When he arrived in Salt Lake City, the first thing the Jazz did was weigh him. The scales said "325." The Jazz said "what the hell happened?" And Melvin replied: "I like airplane food."