Mel Turpin: 1960-2010

By The Associated Press
Updated: July 9, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mel Turpin, former NBA player an All-American Kentucky center, committed suicide Thursday, authorities said. He was 49.

Police and the coroner were called to his North Lexington house Thursday afternoon on a personal injury call. They found Turpin dead.

Coroner Gary Ginn said that Turpin died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in a report released Friday. He did not say whether Turpin left behind a suicide note.

Neighbor Amanda McFadden said Turpin always seemed happy.

“He never looked upset. He kept a smile on his face, just a good person,” she said.

The 6-foot-11 Turpin, dubbed “The Big Dipper,” was an All-Southeastern Conference player for the Wildcats from 1980-84. He led Kentucky to the SEC championship in 1984.

The center helped lead the Wildcats to three consecutive regular-season SEC titles. He averaged a career-high 15.2 points per game in 1983-84 and shot 74.5 percent from the field.

Turpin was the sixth player selected in the 1984 NBA draft that included Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley, but never had the NBA success of those future stars.

Turpin was picked by the Washington Bullets, then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His best season was 1985-86 when he averaged 13.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, but he was out of the league four years later.