BANGOR – Jeff Turner’s memory of Maine lives through VHS tapes.
“I mean there are old grainy home video of me toddler playing in a foot of snow,” Turner said.
Turner was born in Bangor in 1962. His father was a B-52 mechanic in the air force and was stationed at Dow Air Force Base.
But, he spent the rest of his childhood and adolescent years in Florida.
Turner went on to star at Vanderbilt University and chase down his childhood dream of making the United States Olympic basketball team.
The Olympic team was coached by Indiana University head coach, Bob Knight, who selected Turner and 11 other players out of a pool of 70-71 players for the team.
Turner beat out former NBA stars such as John Stockton and Charles Barkley and joined a fresh out of college budding star named Michael Jordan.
The former Commodore, recognizing he wasn’t the most skilled, tried to do anything he could to catch the eye of Knight and earn a spot on the team.
“How many charges can I take in these three a days? How many times can I dive on the floor? Try to do a good job defensively just something to be noticed and then you know it worked,” Turner said.
Jordan would lead the 1984 team to a gold medal. A dominant specimen on the court, it was his intensity off the court that stood out to Turner.
“During the trials we had a barbecue, a cookout at coach Knight’s house. He has a pool table at the house and if you win you stay on the table, you keep the table. Well Michael lost as the evening goes on Michael gets back on the table and he has to go through everybody on the team has to have a shot at him so he could walk out that night and say I beat every one of you guys,” Turner.
It’s the moment Turner knew Jordan was obsessed with winning.
Now a broadcaster for the Orlando Magic, Turner spent the majority of his NBA playing career with Orlando and holds a distinction not many players have during Jordan’s reign in the 90s.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we were the only once they started winning in that era we were the only team to beat Michael Jordan in the playoffs now granted he was coming back from baseball, probably a little rusty,” Turner added.
The Magic beat the Bulls in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals in six games. A small victory then, but it only further fueling the unstoppable locomotive.
“We lifted Horace Grant on our shoulders and marched him out and everything. Probably not a good idea because remember the following season we catch Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals of that 95-96 season four, zero he was not not going to let us win a game,” Turner said with a smile.
Jordan’s competitiveness and desire to win has been seared into the glowing eyes of sports fans reliving his career in the ESPN and Netflix documentary “The Last Dance.”
“I’m enjoying the fact that its opening up a whole new appreciation if you will of Michael Jordan,”
A new appreciation from the next generation.
“A lot of our guys (Magic players) grew up watching Kobe Bryant that was their guy but I thought it was really telling very impactful that they had the piece with Kobe in the last thing saying that whatever you see in me that’s Michael Jordan basically I patterned everything I did after Michael,” Turner said.