Four minutes in the NBA, an extraordinary journey
At 18, 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. It was brief: four minutes, in three games, for two different teams. But he still found himself on the same grounds as Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, before playing in a film with John Travolta.
Posted at 7:45 a.m.
The most amazing?
His stay in the NBA in 1985 went completely unnoticed here. “In the past, we didn’t talk much about basketball in Quebec. Especially among French speakers. »
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.and 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 an excellent rapid.
“90 miles an hour?
– More than that ! »
Baseball was one of his two passions. The other ? Hockey. He was a gifted defender. Except that at 16, he suddenly started growing. So much so that he had to take medication to stunt his growth. He stopped at 7 ft. His body was all messed up. “I had outgrown hockey. »
The Quebec Remparts cut him off. He trained on the Diablos at 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. It didn’t go as planned. There, too, he was cut off.
» 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 his fleas. « He said to me, ‘Either you work, or you go back to Dawson, where the basketball team wants to give you a tryout.’ »
He chose school.
I knew almost nothing about basketball. I didn’t even know you had to leave the bottle after three seconds. But I thought it would allow me to keep in shape before the baseball season.
The first year, Ronald Crevier warmed up the bench. “I mainly 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 evening 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. Of basketball. At one point, the guy says, « I know a basketball coach at Boston College, I’m going to call him to 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 at the restaurant, Ronald Crevier’s American career took off.
The step between the college level, in Quebec, and the university ranks, in the United States, was high. Too high. “It had nothing to do with what I had known. In 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.
It was super difficult. The other guys had 10 years more experience than me. But after quitting hockey, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t quit basketball. I wanted to learn, and do my best.
His perseverance was rewarded. He found himself in a packed Boston Garden. Madison Square Garden, too. For the little guy from Candiac who had dreamed of a career in the National Hockey League, it was magic.
In 1982, the Canadian team selected him for the World Championship. In a preparatory tournament, in front of an audience of NBA recruiters, the Canadians beat the Americans and the Yugoslavs. Back at Boston College, Crevier stood out in practice against professional players from the Boston Celtics. Everything was fine, until he suffered a major leg injury. Once recovered, he returned to the end of the bench, at the worst time, just before the NBA draft.
“I did not expect to be selected. If not, maybe at the very end, at the 10and round. To my surprise, the Chicago Bulls drafted me in the fourth round.
– How to explain that you were fished out so early?
“The Bulls noticed me in practice. Well, I think that’s it. I hardly played. I don’t see what else it could have been. »
Ronald Crevier signed his first professional contract with the Bulls, but he failed to break into the roster. After two good years in a minor circuit, in Toronto, as well as in summer leagues, he again tried his luck in the NBA. The Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors all invited him to their training camp. “I chose the Warriors. It was the worst team. This is where my chances were the best. In addition, the team’s two centers, Purvis Short and Chris Mullin, were on strike.
In the preparatory matches, Ronald Crevier obtained good minutes of play. This allowed him to stand out, and to be chosen in the starting lineup. The first game of the season, he played a minute, at the very end of the game, time to take a shot.
The following weeks, even though he was benched, Crevier fully savored his life as a professional basketball player. He met Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “I had grown up seeing his photos in Sports Illustrated. It impressed me a lot. On October 29, 1985, he also attended a game that became famous, the one in which Michael Jordan broke his left foot, after returning to the game too early. This event has been covered extensively in the series The Last Dance, on the career of the famous Bulls basketball player. “If you look closely at the documentary, I appear on the screen for about two seconds,” says Ronald Crevier, laughing.
In November 1985, the Warriors strikers returned to the game. There was one player too many in the lineup. Ronald Crevier got it. The Quebecer returned briefly to Quebec, before signing a new contract with the Detroit Pistons. He was super excited. Except his work papers weren’t all in order. The customs refused to let him enter 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 peak shape, and I had to learn the playbook quickly. »
The Pistons sent him on the field for a minute, facing his former team, the Warriors.
I messed up. I wanted to be too nice to my friend Terry Teagle. I went on the counterattack, and rather than attempt a dunk over him, I tried a lay up. I missed it. Oh boy. It killed me.
Ronald Crevier had another chance later that week against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, he was entitled to two minutes of play. He missed his two free throws. The next day, the Pistons cut him.
Four minutes. Three games. Two clubs.
These are Ronald Crevier’s final stats. 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 sham marriage for him so that he could represent France on the international scene. He refused. He instead attempted to obtain his French citizenship through official channels. Without success.
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 in Dawson, and appeared in a few films and television shows. “I played big monsters, with a prosthesis. A few episodes of Space Cases, Are You Afraid of the Dark?. In Battlefield Earth, 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’s University women’s basketball team. A role he 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 basketball game!