It began when Turner received an unusual message from a disgruntled fan after Monday’s overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls. The fan sent a $100 Venmo request to Turner — not once, but three times — blaming him for the loss.
Turner typically doesn’t respond to internet trolls, but this time he engaged and countered with a payment of 1 cent.
“Here’s a penny for your thoughts,” Turner wrote in a return message.
The fan shared the payment via Twitter, and it gained traction. Random fans then began sending in payments to Turner, who said as of Friday night he had received about $3,500.
Turner, the NBA’s leading shot-blocker, now says he will keep it going for something positive. He said he will match any donations to assist those affected by the Texas power outage.
As a Bedford, Texas, native whose parents also live in the state, Turner said he plans to keep it going until Monday.
“I’m finally at a point in my career where I can laugh at stuff like that,” Turner told ESPN on Friday, referencing the troll. “My first couple years in the league, I would’ve took offense to it. I would’ve been mad, I would’ve wanted to say something back, but I’ve been dealing with this for the past two or three years. I can have a great game, I can have a bad game, they love you and they hate you.”
Turner said he hasn’t decided where exactly to direct the funds. His business manager, Lavelt Page, said he is targeting five to 10 families as well as charitable organizations to help with issues such as homelessness and water damage.
Millions of Texans were without heat or electricity for days after ice and snow storms earlier in the week, and most were under orders to boil tap water before drinking it because low water pressure could have allowed bacteria to seep into the system.
Turner’s parents and other members of his immediate family were also affected temporarily in Colleyville, Texas, which is centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth. However, Turner said they’re doing fine now.
“Thankfully, everybody is good,” Turner said. “They were both without power and without water for a little while. My parents’ water just got turned on last night, but we have a backup generator that we depend on and it was able to sustain heat for the house, and we had a whole bunch of extra food and everything.
“My mom is one of them apocalyptic moms that actually prepares for stuff like this. She’s telling me for years to always have food, blankets, this, this and that. And she came through. She had everything she needed for this time. When all the grocery stores were closed, you couldn’t travel anywhere, they were ready.”
As for the initial Venmo request from the fan, Turner said he is not exactly sure how the fan was able to find him, although his Venmo account is under the same name as his Twitter handle.
Either way, he has used it as a bigger opportunity.
“Some people have been sending me $33 for my number, and I have 801 [career] blocks this season so $8.01, and finding creative ways to send me messages and all this kind of stuff through Venmo, so it’s a new way of fan interaction for me,” Turner said. “A lot of people have been sending personalized messages and giving me shoutouts, and it’s been a new way for me to connect and a new form of fan engagement for me. Something I feel like hasn’t been done before. So, I want to take it and run with it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.