Miami Heat’s Legendary ‘OG’ Athletic Trainer Dies Suddenly

Ron Culp death

Getty Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning (R) receives treatment from Miami Heat trainer Ron Culp after getting hit in the face by Charlotte Hornets Jamal Mashburn during the 1st round playoff game on April 21, 2001.

The Miami Heat announced the death of their long-time, legendary athletic trainer Ron Culp on Tuesday. Culp, the only person to ever win NBA’s Trainer of the Year three times, died on June 9, 2021.

The Heat’s official account tweeted, “Our Miami HEAT family is with heavy hearts upon learning of the passing of original Miami HEAT Athletic Trainer Ron Culp. Our most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the Culp family during this time.”

Culp, a beloved figure in South Beach, started out his career as a trainer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After 13 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, he joined the Miami Heat in 1987, becoming the only trainer the franchise had.

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When Culp attempted to retire at the end of the 2008 season, The Heat named the training room after him, it’s called “The Culp Room,” retired his name on a banner, which hangs right next to their 2006 NBA Championship banner, and mailed his red trainer’s apron to the Basketball Hall of Fame, knowing this item would one day be worthy of its own shrine in Springfield.

Culp’s retirement was short-lived. NBC Sports reported in April 2012, “He missed the team and the excitement of life in the NBA. And Pat Riley, the president of the Heat, likes having him around.”

Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson was the first to tweet about Culp’s death on June 15. Jackson tweeted, “Sad news: Longtime former Heat trainer Ron Culp has died. In 2000-2001, Culp became just the second trainer in league history to work 30 seasons in the NBA.”

In addition to working a total of 37 seasons as an athletic trainer in the NBA, he was one of the trainers for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team that won gold in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games.

Culp died at age 75 in Medina, Ohio. He is survived by his two daughters, Amanda and Elizabeth.

Culp Hilariously Called Himself the ‘Senior Director of Stuff’ After Re-Joining the Heat

When Culp returned to Miami after his brief retirement in Bend, Oregan, he took on a new role with the franchise. The athletic trainer became more of a front office jack-of-all-trades. He “found a niche as a guy who takes on special projects, speaks on behalf of the team at public functions and overall, just takes care of business,” NBC Sports reported.

“My title is ‘Senior Director of ‘Stuff,” Culp said while in Las Vegas, helping out with Heat’s summer league team. “It’s perfect.”

Culp even had business cards printed out that read, “Senior Director of Stuff,” reported.

Culp’s Wife of 38 Years Died of Cancer in 2006

While a cause of death was not immediately made available for Culp, his wife of 37 years, Marilyn, died of stomach cancer in 2006. The couple first met in middle school and never dated anyone else, Pamplin Media Group revealed.

Marilyn was also a beloved figure in South Beach and a powerful advocate for victim’s rights. PMG said of Marilyn following her death:

When Ron took the job as trainer for the Heat, Marilyn’s public service became even more high-profile. She helped organize the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community in 1988 and served as its executive director and president. She pushed for the establishment of specialized drug courts, which gave first-time offenders a second chance. And it began to work. Miami was no longer the punch line for drug jokes. It became, instead, part of the solution.

Her biggest supporter remained Culp.

“My favorite picture is one of her sitting on top of a bulldozer with a hard hat on, getting ready to knock over a crack house,” Ron said. “Not that she would ever drive that thing. But they got her to pose because she was the person who helped enact the legislation that made it possible.”

“Not that she cared much for the personal recognition. She wanted only to help people. To solve problems. ‘It was always just ‘What can we do? How can we solve it?'”

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