Uwe Blab has a unique following. He recently tried to set up an e-mail account but had trouble finding a screen name close to his name.
"I couldn't believe it," he said last week during a break from working at Bob Knight's basketball camp. "I tried everything and everything came back as taken. I even tried just ublab and that was taken. It was crazy."
Blab doesn't know why so many people would be infatuated with his career. At 7-foot-2, he was one of the tallest players in the NBA, but his career never reached expectations after he was selected as the 17th overall pick in the 1985 draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
In Blab's eyes, though, his expectations may not have been the same as his peers.
Blab was born in Munich, Germany in 1962. As a child, basketball didn't have the interest in Europe that it does today. Blab didn't even know about the game of basketball until he was 13 years old. He did have an advantage, though. By the time he was 15 and a junior in high school, he had grown to be 6-10.
"Because of my height, I was asked to join a club team, but basketball back then wasn't what it is now," Blab said. "Even still, in the early 90s, basketball in Europe was still in its very low stages."
Blab said the difference in present-day Europe is the fact that many countries offer basketball schools, and some are taught by American coaches. Many Europeans also can play basketball year-round without any desire to switch to football or baseball.
What Blab lacked in talent all throughout his basketball career, he made up for with his intelligence and his work ethic.
"He worked unbelievably hard at Indiana," said Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight, who coached Blab at Indiana from 1986-90. "He may not admit this, but he didn't have great hands, he always had a tough time with that. He still may be one of the top 15 scorers and rebounders in Indiana history and he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He's got a brilliant mind and he was a tough competitor who always worked his (tail) off."
Blab said his work ethic helped him remain in the NBA for five seasons, and his intelligence - or analytical thinking - is what eventually led to him give up basketball and pursue a career in the computer software industry.
"I analyze everything, there has to be a reason for everything," he said. "I don't do crossword puzzles or anything with numbers. I play strategy games.
"I probably would have played longer if it wasn't for that kind of thinking. I was tired and didn't have my heart into it, so I just figured that meant it was time to quit. I always approach things logically, which I'm sure drove coach Knight crazy. I had trouble catching the ball for some reason. Everything would be perfect, the position, the pass, and then I'd fumble the ball away. But because of my logical thinking, I figured if I worked harder than the next guy and never quit, I could sit on the bench and wait to get my opportunity. That kind of thinking can hurt you too, I realized. You've got to pour your heart out to play in the NBA."
Blab played four seasons with the Mavericks before splitting his final season in Golden State and San Antonio. He said the Spurs brought him in to toughen up David Robinson during practice, but they released Blab when they signed Will Purdue to do the same job. Blab played three more seasons in Europe before ending his professional career in 1993. He moved his family near Austin to continue his career in computer software. While he began working full-time in the computer software business after his basketball career ended, he actually started dabbling in the industry while he was still playing. His first job was to help Texas Instruments with software development while he was still playing for the Mavericks.
"You have a lot of time on your hands in the NBA," he said. "I worked on an hourly basis for them and I did it because I knew I wasn't going to play forever. ... I always liked computers."
After working off and on for the last 12 years, Blab has taken the summer off to spend time with his family. He brought his son to both of Knight's summer camps and the computer software industry will have to wait until at least August for Blab.
As he reflected on his basketball career, Blab said he had no regrets in the decisions he made.
"I always say my fondest memories are of college and the NBA," he said. "In college, it was just generally everything, the whole atmosphere. Sure, sports there was fun, but we had a really good time. In the NBA, I was fortunate to play with a good group of guys with the Mavs and I got to see the country. I played in Europe and had good times there, so, no, no regrets."
Yep, he used to work at my company up here in Plano around 6 years ago. Sadly, I never got to meet him before he left. I think he was a contract worker. Mr. Blab, will you sign my card?
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