“We Call Him The Jewish T-Mac” | Ryan Turell Is A Step Away From Becoming The First Orthodox Jewish NBA Player, And He’s Just Getting Started

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Ryan Turell is the face of the Jewish movement in sports, as he is the first Orthodox Jewish player to grace the pro courts of the NBA’s G-League.

We’re in 2022, and we’re still breaking barriers and changing the game. The world of sports is constantly evolving, and the talent pool of the professional ranks are as diverse and inclusive as ever.

The sport of basketball is increasingly being dominated by foreign players (just look at the birth origin of the last four NBA MVP winners) who have had had a strong presence in the NBA now for decades.

A Jewish Hero

The presence of a player who is Orthodox Jewish by religion is a glass ceiling that has not come close to being shattered until now.   

The G-League, the NBA’s affiliate league for developing players, is the high-profile playground where Turrell is making a name for himself. He got his first taste of professional action when the Motor City Cruise, a team from Detroit, Michigan, got him into the game for the last few minutes. Upon entering the game, Turrell received a standing ovation from the crowd. 

The 6-foot-7 forward played Division III basketball at Yeshiva University where he was the top scorer in all of D3 hoops. Yeshiva University also won 50 consecutive games as well, and their dominant run was led by Turell.

Turell, 23, averaged 27.1 points per game, five rebounds a game, and just over a steal per game at Yeshiva University. His 27 points per game led all levels of college basketball in scoring in his senior year as well.

In these senior highlights reel, the announcer compared him to NBA Anniversary Team Top 75 legend Tracy McGrady, calling Turell “The Jewish T-Mac.”

While most DIII basketball players normally go overseas or move on to other opportunities in life, Turell continued to push forward toward his pro basketball dreams, and it paid off when he was selected with the 27th pick in the G-League draft after his name went unannounced in the NBA. But if he’s as effective and efficient in the pro leagues as he was in college, he will probably get his chance in the NBA.

Bringing Attention To Religious Diversity In NBA

But for now, Motor City Cruise is his first stop, and they had no problem bringing him on. Not only did they welcome him with open arms, but they also adjusted to his religion. Turell has a spot nearby the arena within walking distance for Shabbat. The Torah commands the Jewish community to rest and not to work on Shabbat, so travel via car or plane is discouraged. The team also took the liberty of providing him with four kosher meals and a hot plate, according to I24 News.

This is probably way more than Turell could ask for from a professional basketball organization. But he’s been dreaming of this for years. Becoming the first Orthodox Jew to play in the NBA is Turell’s dream. He said so when speaking to ESPN back in March. 

“Being the first Orthodox Jew in the NBA would mean the world to me, and a dream come true, God willing. But, just as importantly, it would mean the world to others that never saw this as a possibility.”

Turell has already done something no one else has done, and he’s just getting started. While there are tons of obstacles and religious observations Turell will have to get through, he will be bringing change to the NBA and how the league approaches religious diversity. 

Turell can fill it up, and if he scores enough he has a shot to make history. It’s no question teams will be looking at him as he develops with the Motor City Cruise.