In the second half of the 90s, he brought unforgettable happiness to every basketball lover whose heart beats with the love of Fenerbahçe in Abdi Ipekci Hall stands or on TV. Even today, when his name is mentioned, the eyes of those who watch him live on the court shine. The next guest of “Salon Tribünü” is Henry Turner. Our American legend, who wore our jersey between 1995-1998, answered the questions of Baran Arslan.
We would like to thank Osman Talha Sümer and Zehra Ayrancıoğlu for their contribution to the translation process of the interview. We would also like to thank Barış Eymen for his great support in conducting the interview.
• Mr. Turner, we are delighted to interview you. Thank you for accepting our invitation on behalf of the “Salon Tribünü” crew. Thanks to social media and all the other technological stuff, today, there are many sports magazines and digital publications in Turkey compared to 25 years ago. We want to ask today to address the lack of those days. Can you tell us a little about your childhood, your early teenage years, and your parents, if you don’t mind? Did they support you about basketball?
My childhood was a normal one. I just had my mom with me and my dad was never there. The second part of the question, yes she supported whatever I wanted to do.
• You spent your college years at California State University, Fullerton from 1984-1988. Can you tell us a little bit about your college career?
Cal State Fullerton was where I learned how to really play the game. Before that I was just a very athletic dude running and jumping. The best four year of my basketball life for learning was in California State.
• Spent 1989-90 season with Sacramento Kings and CBA team Wisconsin Flyers, moved to Italy the following season. How did you feel when you first moved out of the country?
My first move out of the country was scary. I was young and didn’t know the Italian language so it was a process to get used to to such difficulties.
• In the last 5 years, you have played for Emmezeta Udine, Collado Villalba, Panna Florence, Panionios Athens. After a one-season return to the Sacramento Kings, you signed with Fenerbahçe in the summer of 1995. How did the story of your transition to our club come about? What were your expectations from the club and team’s expectations from you when you came here?
Coming to Turkey was a funny one. I got a call from a representative of Fenerbahce Basketball Team whose name was Necdet Ersoy. I love this guy. He was the reason why I came to this club. He talked to me all that summer asking me to come. He made my time in Istanbul great. I want to thank him big time!
• During your three seasons at Fenerbahçe, you formed a magnificent trio with Dallas Comegys and Ibrahim Kutluay. Do you want to say something about Dallas and Ibrahim? Apart from them, was there a player you couldn’t forget and enjoyed playing together?
Dallas and Ibo… Both were great guys. We all got along great. Kutluay family was very involved in the team. His dad was our dad and his little sister was our little sister. We made for a good team. One of the guys that I can never forget was Levent Topsakal. In my last year for Fener we had Levent Topsakal and the team was even better with him. I really should have stayed at least one more year in Fener. I’m sad that I left. One of the biggest mistakes in my career on my part. One day I would love to come back and see Fenerbahce basketball and how far it has come. Who knows maybe even coach a team there some day?
• In your first season here, unfortunately, you witnessed a very sad and unfortunate incident. When our team was in Bursa for a match against Tofaş SAS, our team player Dallas Comegys and Larry Spriggs, who played for Oyak Renault, were shot with a gun as a result of a fight at the nightclub. Altar Tunçkol, who was the captain of the team at the time, described the incident as “shocking, a nightmare” in an interview with us. Seriously injured, Dallas survived by chance and was off the field for a while. How was the incident from your angle?
About the shooting… I don’t like to talk about that, so I don’t talk generally. It was the worst point in my life that’s why I don’t want to relive that much. Sorry.
• Again, in the derby against Galatasaray this season, your ankle was broken, you returned to the field in the extension period, even though you left the game, you were in pain and could not run, the block you made with one foot brought us the win. What would you like to say about this game, which is memorable for all of us?
I have so many moments that I cherish from Turkey and I can’t just say one. I remember that game versus Galatasaray and I had grown to know the history of the clubs and the rivalry between them. For me I was going to die before if I let them win that game. It meant too much for our fans and club, so I gave it my all even with a broken ankle.
• In a European Cup game, you scored 20-odd points in the first half. But after arguing with Coach Murat Özgül in the second half of the match, you never scored a shot. Remember that game? How was your general relationship with Murat?
My coaches for Fener were… It is funny that the both coaches had the same first name. The first one (Murat Didin) coaches in a style that didn’t help the team much and the second one (Murat Özgül) was a good coach. He was young and was learning as we were learning. I think he did a great job finding his way. I had no problem with him.
• You have taken place in the minds of Turkish basketball fans, especially Fenerbahce fans, with your flashy dunks and hit shots. Some call you “Michael Jordan of Europe”. You have shown a chart of performance and form in Europe. But you couldn’t show that performance in the United States. What are your views about this topic?
I loved my whole basketball career. Everywhere I went I enjoyed playing basketball. I stayed on Fener team the longest in my career and like I said earlier I should have stayed at least 1 more year.
• What would you like to say about your 3 years at our club, your relationships with your teammates and club employees? What would you like to say about Istanbul and Turkey, where you are a citizen?
After I left Istanbul, I didn’t forget about Fener. I couldn’t! The club and the fans gave too much love for me to not to forget. I remember all my teammates. We were more than a team. We were like a family like brothers. I see my captain Altar Tunçkol at a Kings game a few years back. I almost cried when I saw him. I still keep up with him and my other teammates.
• What did you do after you retire basketball?
After basketball I started broadcasting for the Sacramento Kings’ radio an TV.
• Bogdan Bogdanović, one of the most important names in the EuroLeague championship in 2017, played for the Kings for three seasons. When he joined your team, you sent a message to the Fenerbahce fans and said that you would be very careful with him. The Serbian player is currently with the Atlanta Hawks and unfortunately suffered an injury. What can you tell us about Bogdan?
I was jumping for joy when we got Bogi. I knew who he was and how good of a player he was. Bogi is a great guy, good player and will always be a product of Fener basketball.
• Thank you again on behalf of me and my friends for this wonderful interview. Finally, what is your message to us Fenerbahce fans?
I have only these words for my Fener fans: “FENER 1907 FOR LIFE!”