Perhaps it was the simple miracle that Turner lived long enough to be baptized that made Iris believe he would leave a mark. The first 12 months of Turner's life were filled with such fear and anxiety, illness and hospitalizations, that Iris didn't even christen him until his first birthday.
"So many times, I thought he wasn't going to make it," Iris said as she watched her son play at the Garden. "People walk up to me now, strangers with articles or just to tell stories, and tell me how much they look up to my son, and I think, 'How far can this go?' For the first year of his life, I kept asking, 'Lord, when is he going to get better?'"
A strapping 10-pound baby at birth, Turner had chicken pox, pneumonia, asthma and measles before he celebrated a birthday. When a measles epidemic swept through Chicago in the winter of 1989, Iris found her baby so ill he couldn't even cry. She called a doctor who, presumably figuring she was exaggerating, suggested she come to the office. Guided instead by her mother's instincts, Iris took him to the emergency room.
"Doctors took one look at him and just took him away," Iris said. "They had tubes and machines and everything there in a second. He nearly died."
Turner survived the measles but had severe breathing problems. Surgery to remove his adenoids and tonsils eventually eased the struggles, but for the first year of his life, Turner slept on his mother's chest every night because when she put him on his back in his crib, he would almost stop breathing.
Continuing through his Job-like childhood, Turner survived being hit by a car as a 3-year-old (his mother saw him flip in the air and land on his head, but Turner walked away with just a concussion and stitches).
He also struggled to speak as a toddler. Saddled with oversize baby teeth and a difficult overbite, he was capable of talking, but only his older brother, Darius, could understand him. Even Iris would turn to Darius for interpretation and translation from the boy who called her "Bobba" because he couldn't say "Momma."
"I don't know what he would have done without Darius," Iris said of her two boys' special bond.
When Evan Turner was a sickly child, his mother Iris probably didn't think she'd be watching him play big-time college basketball one day.
Intense speech therapy helped Turner, but the sting of special classes and the frustration of not being understood left Turner reserved and insecure. "I'd be yelling, 'Darius, what does he want? What does he want?' and poor Evan would get so frustrated, he'd say, "Oh, nebber minb [mimicking the way Turner spoke]."
"I'm still shy, but I'm not insecure anymore," Turner said. "I just know how to hide it better. When I was little, I just didn't like being around big groups of people. I would just go outside by myself and play basketball. It was almost therapeutic."