Four minutes in the NBA, an extraordinary journey

At 18 years old, Ronald Crevier had never played a basketball game in his life. At 27, he became the first French-speaking Quebecer to play in the NBA. He was brief: four minutes, in three games, for two different teams. But he was still on the same grounds as Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, before acting in a movie with John Travolta.

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The most amazing?

His time in the NBA in 1985 went completely unnoticed here. “In the past, we didn’t talk much about basketball in Quebec. Especially among Francophones. »

He himself did not even know the rules until adulthood. Instead, he grew up in a family of baseball players. His grandfather, Camille Crevier, was one of the best Quebec pitchers of the early 20th century.Y century. His father, Ronald, signed a professional contract with the New York Giants and got a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Young Ronald also had excellent fast.

“90 miles per hour?

– More than that ! »

Baseball was one of his two passions. The other ? Hockey. He was a talented defender. Except at 16, he suddenly started growing up. So much so that he had to take medication to stop his growth. He stopped at 7 feet. His body was all messed up. “He had gotten over hockey. »


PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Ronald Crevier, the first French-speaking Quebecer in the NBA, in the 1980s. He is 7 feet tall.

The Quebec Remparts cut him off. He trained with the Devils at the Cégep de Trois-Rivières, but the Cégep students went on strike. He then left Mauricie to try his luck with the Dawson College hockey team. He didn’t go as planned. There, too, he was cut down.

” I am 18 years old. I was trying to find my way in life. I was tired of everything. I went to stay with my grandparents, in Saint-Jean-de-Matha. After two weeks, his father called him to shake off the fleas. “He told me, ‘Either you work or you go back to Dawson, where the basketball team wants to give you a tryout.’

He chose the school.

I knew almost nothing about basketball. I didn’t even know you had to put the bottle down after three seconds. But I thought it would allow me to stay in shape before baseball season.

ronald creevier

The first year, Ronald Crevier warmed the bench. “Mainly I attended training. The second year, he became a starter on the team. Dawson won the Canadian championship. However, opportunities for French-speaking Quebec basketball players at the time were slim. None of them played in the NCAA, let alone the NBA.

One night that year, Ronald Crevier and his father went for a drink at a popular Montreal restaurant, A La Catalunya. “An American was sitting next to us. We started talking about sports together. Hockey. Basketball At one point, the guy says, “I know a basketball coach at Boston College, I’m going to call him and see if he’d like to see you.” “This was the case. The coach moved to Montreal. He liked what he saw. And that’s how, thanks to a chance meeting in the restaurant, Ronald Crevier’s American career took off.

The step between the university level, in Quebec, and the university ranks, in the United States, was high. Too tall. “It had nothing to do with what I knew. At Dawson, we had maybe one game and one practice a week. There, it could be three training sessions… per day! »

The first three seasons, Ronald Crevier played very little.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY RONALD CREVIER

Ronald Crevier with the Boston College basketball team

It was super difficult. The other guys had 10 years more experience than me. But after I quit hockey, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t quit basketball. I wanted to learn and give my best.

ronald creevier

His perseverance was rewarded. She found herself in a packed Boston Garden. Madison Square Garden too. For the little boy from Candiac who had dreamed of a career in the National Hockey League, it was magical.

In 1982, the Canadian team selected him for the World Championship. In a preparatory tournament, before an audience of NBA recruiters, the Canadians beat the Americans and the Yugoslavs. Back at Boston College, Crevier excelled in practice against professional players from the Boston Celtics. Everything was going well, until he suffered a major leg injury. Once recovered, he returned to the bottom of the bench, at the worst time, just before the NBA draft.

“I did not expect to be selected. If not, maybe at the end, at 10Y round. To my surprise, the Chicago Bulls drafted me in the fourth round.

– How to explain that they caught you so soon?

“The Bulls noticed me in practice. Well, I think that’s all. I barely played. I don’t see what else it could have been. »

Ronald Crevier signed his first professional contract with the Bulls, but failed to make the roster. After two good years on a minor circuit, in Toronto, as well as in summer leagues, he once again tried his luck in the NBA. The Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors invited him to their training camp. “I chose the Warriors. It was the worst team. This is where my chances were best. Also, the team’s two centers, Purvis Short and Chris Mullin, were on strike.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY RONALD CREVIER

Ronald Crevier, right, with the Toronto Tornadoes

In the preparatory matches, Ronald Crevier got good minutes of play, which allowed him to stand out and be chosen in the starting eleven. The first game of the season, he played one minute, at the end of the game, time to make a shot.

The following weeks, although he was benched, Crevier fully enjoyed his life as a professional basketball player. He met Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “I had grown up seeing pictures of him on Sports Illustrated. I was very impressed. On October 29, 1985, he too attended a game that became famous, the one in which Michael Jordan broke his left foot after returning to the game too soon. This event has been covered extensively in the series The last Dance, about the career of the famous Bulls basketball player. “If you look closely at the documentary, I appear on the screen for about two seconds,” laughs Ronald Crevier.

In November 1985, the Warriors’ forwards were back in the game, one player too many in the lineup. Ronald Crevier got it. The Quebecer briefly returned to Quebec, before signing a new contract with the Detroit Pistons. He was super excited. Except his work papers weren’t all in order. Customs refused to let him into the United States.

“I stayed in a hotel in Windsor for four days, before everything was sorted out. Obviously, I had just missed all the practices. When I got to Detroit, I wasn’t in my best shape and had to learn the playbook quickly. »

The Pistons sent him on the court for a minute, facing his former team, the Warriors.

I ruined it. I wanted to be too nice to my friend Terry Teagle. I went on the fast break, and instead of trying a dunk on him, I tried a layup. I missed it. oh boy. he killed me

ronald creevier

Ronald Crevier got another chance later that week against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time he was entitled to two minutes of play and missed both of his free throws. The next day, the Pistons cut him.

Four minutes. three games. Two clubs.

These are the final statistics of Ronald Crevier. But beyond the numbers, it is his journey that is remarkable and inspiring. After his NBA career, he played half a dozen years in Spain, Switzerland and France. We tried to organize a fictitious marriage for him so that he could represent France on the international stage. He said no. Instead, he attempted to obtain his French citizenship through official channels. Unsuccessfully.

After retiring from basketball, he returned to settle in Quebec. He worked for a few years on a sewing machine for his former basketball coach at Dawson and appeared in a few movies and TV shows. “I played big monsters, with a prosthetic. some episodes of space cases, Are you afraid of the dark?. Inside battlefield land, also, with John Travolta. I participated in two weeks of filming to appear for a second in the film. [rires]. »

For the past four years, he was an assistant coach for the Bishop University women’s basketball team. A role that she enjoyed. “Sport was good for me. It opened me up to the world. It allowed me to meet interesting people. »

And to think that at 18 he had never played a single game of basketball!

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