December 28, 1960|
|Died||July 8, 2010
|Listed height||6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)|
|Listed weight||240 lb (109 kg)|
|High school||Bryan Station (Lexington, Kentucky)|
|NBA draft||1984 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6th overall|
|Selected by the Washington Bullets|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||3,071 (8.5 ppg)|
|Rebounds||1,655 (4.6 rpg)|
|Blocks||348 (1.0 bpg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Melvin Harrison "Mel" Turpin (December 28, 1960 – July 8, 2010) was an American professional basketball player.
A 6'11" center, Turpin was born in Lexington, Kentucky and attended Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia from 1979–80. He was FUMA's most valuable player for the postgraduate squad under coach Fletcher Arritt, also being voted the number one player in the state for varsity basketball; he averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots, being inducted into the Fork Union Military Academy Hall of Fame in 2000.
At the University of Kentucky, Turpin made the 1st Team All-SEC for 1982 and 1983, and was a starter for the NCAA Final Four Kentucky Wildcats team in 1983–84. In 1984, he was the Southeastern Conference scoring leader, holding the record for the most field goals made in SEC tournament play in addition to co-holding the honour of the most points scored in a single tournament game. Turpin scored 42 points in a game against University of Tennessee as a junior, making 18 of 22 shots from the field; he similarly dominated Louisiana State University as a senior, shooting 15 of 17 from the floor and five of six from the free throw line.
In 1984, Turpin was chosen as the sixth overall pick in the first round by the Washington Bullets in the NBA Draft, being immediately traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a professional, however, he struggled with his weight, and after six seasons with the Cavaliers, the Utah Jazz, CAI Zaragoza and the Bullets, he retired. Earning the derisive nicknames "Dinner Bell Mel" and "The Mealman", Turpin was considered one of the biggest busts in a draft class that included future greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton. In a 2004 Sports Illustrated article, Turpin quipped, "In my day, they thought the big man was supposed to be thin. They didn't know too much. It was medieval".
Turpin was involved in one of the more famous plays in NBA lore and in the career of Michael Jordan. On December 12, 1987, Jordan and the Chicago Bulls played Turpin and the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. With the Bulls leading 47-42 late in the 2nd quarter, Jordan posted up John Stockton, took an entry pass, and got free for an easy dunk. As Jordan ran up the court for defense, a fan yelled at Jordan to 'pick on someone his own size.' On the Bulls' next possession, Jordan got free and dunked again as, this time, Turpin tried to defend him. Jordan then turned to the fan as he was running back upcourt and yelled, "Was he big enough?"
During his National Basketball Association spell, 361 regular season games brought him averages of 8 points and nearly 5 rebounds. In 1988–89, prior to his last season altogether, he played in Spain with CAI Zaragoza, later being exchanged to the Jazz for José Ortiz.
For a time during the 2000s, Turpin worked as a security guard. On July 8, 2010, he committed suicide in his Lexington home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The reason for his suicide was never determined. Also, it was never made public if he left a suicide note. He was 49 years old at the time of his death.