Whenever Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner is around comedian Mike Epps, he knows some jokes are coming his way. It’s pretty much bound to happen.
“Just making fun of my feet and how big I am,” Turner said. “He’s a funny dude.”
Epps’ personal favorite is when he compares Turner to a popular Atlanta rapper.
“A 6-11 Future,” Epps told The Undefeated over the phone recently, before bursting out in laughter.
As much as their growing friendship revolves around fun and laughter, their love for the Pacers and the Indianapolis community is what brings them together. As Turner, 23, enters his fifth NBA season and Epps, 48, prepares to star with fellow comedian Eddie Murphy in the Netflix movie Dolemite Is My Name with limited release on Friday, they came together Sept. 26 for a panel discussion at Indianapolis’ Shortridge High School to motivate hundreds of teens.
Local promoter and community activist Amp Harris orchestrated the event through a new series of forums called Making the Right Play in Life, which benefits Indianapolis Public Schools.
It was Harris who first introduced Epps to Turner outside of a game setting. In January, Turner and members of the Pacers team attended one of Epps’ comedy shows. Epps, a native of Indianapolis, frequently attends Pacers games and sported team gear during the panel discussion.
“I just think that he takes a lot of pride in being from Indy, and that’s one of the things he wanted to share,” Turner said. “He takes pride in everything he does, so it wasn’t too odd seeing him out of character.”
Epps is also preparing to star in a Netflix comedy series with Wanda Sykes called The Upshaws, which is centered on an African American working-class family in Indiana.
The Undefeated recently caught up with Epps for an exclusive interview.
In regards to the event, why was it so important for you to be able to give back to the Indianapolis community, where you’re from, with a guy like Myles Turner?
You know what? For this city right here, the youth is always in need for encouragement from somebody to come back and show them that they love them and they’re thinking about them, to try and give them some encouraging words.
Every time there’s a great opportunity — especially with a guy like Myles, who has a great attitude about that game — when you match it up like that, you’ve got to be a part of that because you definitely know somebody’s life is going to be saved.
Amp Harris is always putting together these great opportunities for us in the city, and he called me to say, ‘Mike, I’ve got another way for us to get a hold of the kids, are you down?’ I was like, ‘Amp, you know how we do it. We come together and make it happen.’ So it was definitely needed.
How did that relationship start with Myles? I saw that he attended one of your comedy shows earlier this year, but when did it begin?
My man Amp Harris has always been the liaison between athletes and entertainers here in this town, and he brought Myles to the comedy show. Myles enjoyed it, and we’ve been kicking it ever since. Every time I talk to him, we’re just talking about how to better the community and improve the kids.
What are you expecting from him this year? He had a solid summer with Team USA Basketball, and obviously he’s putting in work to become better.
I think his confidence is up a little higher this year. He seems a little bit more stronger and I think he is going to go hard. Myles is one of those humble guys, but when he turns into a monster and he realizes that he’s got the strength to take over, then it’s over with. I’ve got my money on him.
I know you’ve been a Pacers fan for a long time, but when did your love for the team start?
Man, I’ve been a Pacers fan since Billy Knight, since the late ’70s, so to talk to me about Pacers, I’m just a die-hard fan, period.
It seems like the championship is up for grabs this season; with the Eastern Conference being wide-open, how do you like their chances this year?
They’re sleeping on the Pacers. The Pacers are going to come up and lick them this year.
Are you planning on attending any games?
I’ll be at plenty of them.
Cool. So is there anything else you would like to say about the Indianapolis community to bring awareness to your cause, especially with Myles, in closing?
I just want to let everyone know that Indianapolis is a great town that needs some improvement. We need to stop the violence and teach the kids that they’re loved out here. Go Pacers. Myles Turner can’t be stopped in 2020.