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How an unusual fan request and 'a penny for your thoughts' sparked a Texas relief fundraiser from a more mature Myles Turner
The Texas native turned a petty tweet into a positive with the help of basketball fans from all over.
It’s a funny backstory about how that came about.
That’s how Pacers center Myles Turner led into his explanation as to how a fan’s social media courage ultimately led to a fundraiser for his home state of Texas, where thousands of lives have been hit hard due to frigid weather.
We’ll get to the story but first — how you can help. Turner is matching all donations sent to his Venmo (@original_turner) through Sunday (Feb. 21). On top of that, the National Basketball Players Association has stepped in and will match the total as well.
Turner’s business manager, Lavelt Page, told Fieldhouse Files they’re approaching $20,000 in donations as of Sunday afternoon. When matched twice, that’s more than $60,000 for families in Texas. And, I’m told the Pacers plan to contribute as well.
(UPDATE: Feb. 22 — Turner shares that $76,187.58 was raised.)
Turner, who was born in Bedford, Tex., is still determining where the money will go but ensures that it will be put to good use. He has a home in Austin, bought his parents a home in the suburbs, has more family in Houston and occasionally spends time in San Antonio — so this is personal.
“People having to sleep in the single-digits in their households and what not — I could never imagine what that’s like,” he said. “I’m blessed and fortunate enough to have my family members taken care of, but it just hit home to me because it was my people. Those people are going through a lot.
“Financially is obviously the only way I can make a contribution at this point. I wish I could block the weather. Can’t do it.”
Well played by the NBA’s leader in blocked shots (94).
So here’s how it went. A fan struck a chord with Turner last week, only this time it initially wasn’t on a traditional social media platform. Not Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook. Cole Hawkins, who goes by @Life_Of_Cole on Twitter, was bold enough to request money from Turner on Venmo.
But three times.
“Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve had a lot of people talk their fair share of crap at me,” Turner said. “I have never seen anybody have the audacity to talk mess through Venmo, a financial app. So that was ridiculous to me. It was hilarious.”
It all stemmed from the Pacers’ loss a week ago to the Chicago Bulls. Turner, who finished 2 for 10 from the field, played all but eight seconds in overtime and described it as “a subpar game” for him. In overtime, he missed a 3-pointer and a putback layup, grabbed one rebound and had a turnover.
Afterward, Turner had a Venmo request on his phone for $100 “for losing us the game.”
Turner is on Venmo and his username is the same as his Twitter — @Original_Turner — but he never advertised it. “I said you know what, I’ll play along. So, I Venomoed him a penny. A single penny for his thoughts. I thought we was gonna dead it at that, whatever.”
But nope. Hawkins, a Pacers fans in Chicago who graduated from Indiana University two years ago, fired off a tweet to his 600-plus followers.
“I have not done this type of thing before,” Hawkins wrote to Fieldhouse Files in a text message. “It was in the heat of the moment and I was a disgruntled fan (we’ve all been there).”
Of his 34 tweets over the last year, only five of then were not retweets or replies. And four of them came after Myles sent him a penny.
Turner laughed and replied on Twitter “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.” And then he started to hear from people all over the world, not just in Indiana or Texas.
“People have been sending me customized (Venmo) messages, like telling me how much they appreciate it. I’ve had Sixers fans, Heat fans, you name it. People all around the world are sending me money for this effort. That’s the beautiful part about social media.
“All those pennies and two cents, in a matter of three or four hours, added up to $230. Just like that. It’s a lot of pennies.”
Turner and his Page ran with it — turning a negative into a positive.
“They canceled the game in Houston so we were home Friday and bored,” Page said. “We were sitting in the kitchen and he told me of the Venmo situation. I thought people were requesting money. Then it hit me, let’s post it and see how much we can raise, then match it.”
In addition to sending a penny or two, people sent $8.01 — a penny for all 801 career blocks — $52 for his jersey number at Texas or $33 for his Pacers number.
“Every 30 seconds somebody comes through and it’s wonderful,” Turner said. “I never thought it would blow up like this.”
Texted Hawkins, who made a $50 donation on Saturday: “I’m just thankful that this hilarious interaction between Myles and I has turned into a growing fund for relief for families in the state of Texas.”
There’s another thing that needs to be considered here. This would not have started if not for the Venmo request, and it wouldn’t have carried on into a fundraiser if Turner wasn’t on social media.
Last season, he took a timeout from all of it. After a bad showing against the 76ers — when he managed to score three points on 1-of-8 shooting while Joel Embiid had 32 and 11 — his presence on Twitter and Instagram vanished.
Two days later, he said “I did it for myself and I’ll keep it at that.”
It was noticeable because he and Justin Holiday are the most active Pacers on social media, posting nearly every day. But now Turner is back to being a daily user.
“It’s a lot that comes with it,” he admitted. “Being a professional, you have to handle it as professionally as possible. Sometimes you have a little fun with it and talk a little noise back or be petty here and there, but I’ve just come to the realization that no matter what I do — whether it’s great, whether it’s bad — people are gonna have something to say about what I’m doing now with the Venmo thing. Someone is always going to have something to say.
“I didn’t have this mental mindset last year or even years before that. It really got to me, it got depressing and it got to the point where I had to get off social media. But now, I almost welcome it.
“I hate when people say I don’t care what people think or say about me, we’re all human. We all care what people think about us. But I’m to the point where — I won’t say what I what I would normally say to people outside of media — I’m at the point now where it doesn’t affect me like it used to.
So then how does he compartmentalize seeing the negativity while also being an active user and enjoying the experience, I wondered.
He credits maturity and growth in himself, which stems from this past offseason. He turned off his phone and spent time away in Wyoming for the second straight offseason. There, he improved his headspace and altered his routine.
“I had a lot of time to myself, a lot of time to reflect and know what I want out of my career, know what I want out of my life and all that I’ve accomplished at such a young age,” he said.
He’s just 24 years old and the oldest of two kids. This is growth. He turned this laughing matter into something that will help hundreds of people in the area he cares most about: home.
If you want to help, you can send a donation to Turner on Venmo.