Friday, September 11, 2009

Ostertag wants back in NBA

Former KU center works out with Trail Blazers

Andrew Hanzel of Lee's Summit, Mo., eyes a size-18 autographed basketball shoe from former Jayhawk and NBA basketball player Greg Ostertag, center, following a scrimmage at the Bill Self basketball camp. At right is Liz Haywood of Greenwood, Mo. Ostertag participated in a scrimmage Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

Andrew Hanzel of Lee's Summit, Mo., eyes a size-18 autographed basketball shoe from former Jayhawk and NBA basketball player Greg Ostertag, center, following a scrimmage at the Bill Self basketball camp. At right is Liz Haywood of Greenwood, Mo. Ostertag participated in a scrimmage Wednesday at Horejsi Center.


Greg Ostertag, who retired from professional basketball three years ago at the age of 33, wants to play in the NBA again.

“I just miss it,” the 7-foot-2 Ostertag said Thursday in an interview with the Journal-World — one in which he made it clear he’s ready to entertain offers from any team in need of a backup center.

“Watching the playoffs last year got me excited. My wife said, ‘Why not go try it again?’ One day I said, ‘What the heck. I’ll get in shape and get back on the court and give it a try.’

“I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Ostertag, 36, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with wife Heidi and children Cody, Bailey and Shelby, was invited to travel to Portland last week to work out with the Trail Blazers. Portland thus far is the only team to entertain the possibility of letting the 278-pound former Kansas University pivot resume a career that spanned 11 seasons.

“I did all right. I’m rusty. I’d not picked up a ball seriously in three years,” said Ostertag, who played for both Utah and Sacramento. “I have some cobwebs. The more I play, the quicker I’ll get it back. Now I’m trying to get in good shape and get stronger. The basketball will come.”

Ostertag, who helped KU to a berth in the 1993 Final Four, believes he can provide a team up to 15 minutes off the bench.

“Size, blocking shots and putbacks, setting screens, not letting anybody get easy layups,” Ostertag said of what he can bring to the table. “Nobody ever put the ball in my hand and said, ‘Go to work,’’’ Ostertag said of scoring.

Ostertag, who made $48,251,390 during his days in the NBA, isn’t money-motivated right now. He’s been frugal with his earnings and is set for life financially.

“The more I get into it, the more I want to play,” Ostertag said. “I’ve been working hard since June to get weight off to where I can be productive. I’m in the mode I don’t want to work this hard for nothing. I want to get my feet planted somewhere, get in veterans camp, and in the preseason maybe somebody will like what they see.”

Chris Emens, senior director of Octagon Basketball, an agency that represents Ostertag, believes his client can be an asset to the Blazers or any other NBA team.

“Greg brings interior defense, rebounding, shot-blocking, playoff and championship-game experience and most importantly for teams in contention, he knows how to win,” Emens said.

Most NBA teams are expected to carry just 13 or 14 players this season because of budgetary concerns, instead of the maximum-allotted number of 15.

“It depends if somebody has room,” Ostertag said. “I’m not asking for 30 minutes, but give me a chance to compete for playing time, that’s all.

“If I don’t make an NBA roster, I’ll go back to what I was doing — hunting, golfing, fishing,” added Ostertag, who isn’t interested in playing in Europe or the NBA Developmental League.

If he doesn’t make it back to the league, he’ll continue to compete in one of his favorite sports: ice hockey.

Ostertag, believe it or not, competes year-round in a no-checking league in Scottsdale.

“I think I had five or six goals this summer,” said Ostertag, who is a wing. “It’s fun, good exercise and a way to get out of the house.”

He also enjoys watching son, Cody, play basketball. Cody Ostertag is a 6-foot-5 sophomore at Scottsdale Christian Academy.

“He has a lot of potential,” Ostertag said.

Ostertag also has an interesting hobby: baking cakes.

He recently showed an Arizona Republic reporter a slide show of his cakes — a Cardinals-Steelers Super Bowl cake, a wedding cake and his daughter Shelby's swim cake.

“Just learning how to make the icing, color the icing, the shapes, how to draw, that's the hard part,” Ostertag told the Republic. “I just get an idea in my head and go from there. My handwriting isn't that great.”

He learned how to cook as a child in Duncanville, Texas.

“Just from watching my mom, I learned how to do it,” Ostertag said. “I’ve made some for my kids for their birthdays. I made a couple for my mom for her birthdays.”


Michael Pannacciulli 10 years, 4 months ago

First off, you don't have to live that frugally with the earnings he that he did but c'mon.

Big O is a great guy. I remember when he donated his kidney to his sister while still an active player. Amazing.

I also still have this wacky memory of him and Jacque Vaughn at late night...he was singing Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places.". Pretty funny stuff.

Coming back-tough but he's got the right mindset. Best of luck O. Maybe Big Country will attempt the same and you can relive some of your great battles!

Joel Hood 10 years, 4 months ago

Good luck Big O, but I would be shocked if he actually made a team. (BTW - does anyone else hear the "Baby Elephant Walk" when they read this story?)

jaybate 10 years, 4 months ago

First, Tag has the FU money and can do whatever he wants.

Second, maybe he should pay Hudy to finally get rid of his baby fat. A firm Tag, something we never really got to see, could still do a team some good.

swjhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

You gotta chase your dreams, baby!

All the best to Greg. His character as a Jayhawk is already proved with the kidney donation.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 4 months ago

He can buy a ticket like everyone else!!!

KANSTUCKY 10 years, 4 months ago

Here's the real article if you want the details. I was looking for more info on Cody O. Greg, I'm sure you can still hold your own against Shaq.

Jaminrawk 10 years, 4 months ago

Good for Greg. Hey, not a lot of 7'2" centers with his experience are out there. He would have to be better than Nikoloz Tskitishvili. That cat is being paid by the Knicks right now and I would bet anything "Big O" is a better bench guy.

I like that Greg has expandsed his horizons to hockey and cake making. He was always an interesting dude.

JayCeph 10 years, 4 months ago

...and where's his son looking to go to school?

Joe Baker 10 years, 4 months ago

It would be nice to see him operate a big man camp in Lawrence. It would be even better to see him working with the KU big men along with Manning!!

Daniel Cummings 10 years, 4 months ago

What a classic! Baking cakes!

I'll never forget picking up Big O at KCI one year to transport him in conjunction with my duties as a volunteer for the KC Sports Commission. Jacque Vaughn had arrived at the same time on a separate flight and so I had both of them in the car on our way to the team hotel...Jacque in the front, Big O sprawled all over the back seat. Without warning, Big O reaches over and changes the radio channel from something Jacque had chosen to some twangy country station. Jacque just shook his head as if he were tolerating his youngest child...

Best of luck in your comeback, Greg!

bricks1964 10 years, 4 months ago

good luck we wish you the best have you rab over your foot with that van latley back in collegehes van was rolling he tried to put the in park and ran over hes foot he couldnt play couple games roy williams was real happy whem that happened dont that agian mr,o

Aligned 10 years, 4 months ago

Wow, bricks1964! That may be the best comment I've ever read, or tried to read, that is...

Aligned 10 years, 4 months ago

Strangely, Big O was involved in one of the cooler things I’ve ever seen in sports. It happened when KU was playing Purdue one year while Glenn Robinson was playing there. Well, “Big Dog” drives to the hole and just goes up and over Big O and powers it home, after which Big O staggers around and I think maybe even fell down. While Big O is getting back up and attempting to get everything together again, Big Dog is standing over him with his chest extended and talking trash. Of course, everyone watching is thinking, okay, what happens now? Well, Big O just gits up, pats him on the ass and says “nice move”, and then trots off to the other end of the court, leaving Robinson just standing there looking stupid. Very funny!

kvskubball 10 years, 4 months ago

I think his limited O-game will probably keep him out, and the fact that he would really be a half-court, not a transition, player (Hey, what do they expect from a 7'2" guy?), that probably won't work with NBA teams squeezing finances. I do agree, that if wants to try it, why not!

I like the idea of him transitioning to a big-man coach. His specialty would be on the defensive side, obviously.

Ryan Mullen 10 years, 4 months ago

As a Utah Jazz fan I can honestly say the man was terrible in the NBA. The only reason he got a contract extension from the Jazz in the first place is from his defense against Shaq, which in all honesty he was always able to shut him down. That was all he could ever do though in the league. He was always out of shape and could never play with any other bigs. As a KU fan though I love Ostertag and wish him the best.

Milhawkee 10 years, 4 months ago


I remember they Ostertag stuck out his hand and Robinson shook it.

O never took it to the hole the way he should have. He always just flopped it up there and missed a lot.

There was also the time Shaq slapped him before a game and knocked him to the ground.

Lance Hobson 10 years, 4 months ago

Big O was kind of an idiot at KU, but overall he seems like a good guy. Coach Williams had problems with him being out of shape, so I doubt seriously that he has the discipline at his age to come back. He always was a talker, and clearly that hasn't changed.

Rick Arnoldy 10 years, 4 months ago

Aligned - thanks for bringing back a cool memory. Kind of put all the "trash talkers" in their place with a show of good sportsmanship as far as I'm concerned.

Kevin Long 10 years, 4 months ago

Bricks are you drunk? If you are it's okay! ha ha!

Aligned 10 years, 4 months ago


Thanks for responding.

Some of the preceding comments about Big O have been disparaging in nature, to say the least. I think Big O was, and is, a decent and kind-hearted person. Some may also be forgetting his better performances on the court too, which came against some very good competition such as Big Country. People can say what they want, but the fact is, he went on to be a successful NBA player, and I for one am happy for him.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 4 months ago

Part of his conditioning issues were his bouts with asthma...other parts of his conditioning issues were his bouts with his big buttocks.

However, once I saw him get mad on the court and for a few moments he became this unstoppable force. It is a shame he couldn't have trained himself to keep that "demon' alive on the court!!!

jaybate 10 years, 4 months ago

Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down:

"Tags an idiot."


Make that an idiot who earned $48,000,000 and is now trying to break $50,000,000 with a comeback.

The word idiot just does not seem to apply to Greg Ostertag.



Independently wealthy.

A guy who actually knows how the score is kept in business and real life.

A guy who figured out how to make a fortune out of some pretty modest basketball skills.

A guy who knows not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

A guy who possessed year in and year out the emotional intelligence to rise above his weaknesses and the constant criticism of those who said he was never good enough for his skills at any level and persist so he could capitalize on a once in a life time opportunity.

A guy who kept getting up and going to work each day in a league full of prison bodies who could and did punch his lights out for laughs, because he couldn't (or wouldn't) punch back physically, or mentally.

I was as frustrated as anyone with Tag seeming like he could have done more with what he had than he actually did at KU and in the L.

But the older I get, the more I realize that everyone actually does do the best they can with what cards they are dealt. Its just that almost no one is dealt a full deck.

The older I get the more I realize coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn't matter, just as my old coach used to tell me. The older I get the more I understand that it doesn't matter, if the glass is 3/4 empty, half empty, a quarter empty, or full. All that matters is what's in the glass and making the most if it.

What have you done? is one key question.

What are you doing now? is the other one.

What could you have done? is for persons who are afraid to do anything at all.

The goal is always the same: survive and advance.

Greg Ostertag was dealt a tall body with some ability to run the floor, defend and block shots, and a modest need to please, a modest ability to learn from coaching, and almost no ability to learn how to fake living up to other persons' expectations.

He wasn't dealt a lot of insight into what it takes to become great (which most of us aren't either).

jaybate 10 years, 4 months ago

Ostertag was dealt a body of modest strength, and little scoring ability.

He was dealt a pitance of social cunning. Even after years in the spotlight he still cannot instinctively say what people want to hear the way they want to hear it. He has a tin ear for ingratiating himself.

But considering what Greg Ostertag was dealt, I think $48 million makes him one of KU's most successful professional basketball players.

Professional basketball is a business.

What does this cliche mean?

It means that in the end it matters more how much money you make than how excellent you become. Excellence in business is no guarranty of success. Business is a game of strategy about how to wind up with the most money you can. Excellence occassionally helps one end up with more money, but often it is not remotely cost effective and often it only helps other persons make more money, not yourself. One pursues excellence for essentially idealistic reasons and for situational applications, where it can create an edge in the pursuit of success. The most successful persons understand intuitively just how frequently excellence is either incidental to, or completely inconsequential in the pursuit of success. If you want to be successful, you have to be single minded about pursuing success, not excellence. Likewise, pursuit of excellence leads to excellence and only coincidentally to success. So many persons do not get this simple truth. The reason you must be careful what you wish for and aim for is that that is very close to what you will either succeed, or fail, at getting.

Mr. Ostertag, whatever his shortcomings, appears to have understood and single mindedly pursued success, not excellence. In the game of professional basketball, he got rich.

He succeeded and deserves to be called Mr. Ostertag, not an idiot.

Judge him by what he did.

Not by what he could have done.

Pigs could, if they had wings, fly.

But they don't.

Still, they are very good at producing bacon.

So is Mr. Ostertag.

Aligned 10 years, 4 months ago


My brain doesn't normally produce enough dopamine to allow me the luxury of making it through your typical post. However, I did on this occasion, and I must say that you have some keenly perceptive observations here with regard to Mr Ostertag. Particularly in the first attempt.

"A guy who possessed year in and year out the emotional intelligence to rise above his weaknesses and the constant criticism of those who said he was never good enough for his skills at any level and persist so he could capitalize on a once in a life time opportunity."

Man, that's beautiful. If my brain worked better, I'd write something like that. Of course it might require an English refresher too...

brooksmd 10 years, 4 months ago

Damn Jaybate, you took the words right out of my mouth. lol Great reply to

"Tags an idiot."


LHMfan 10 years, 4 months ago

He made all that money by sucking the Utah Jazz dry. The consensus among Jazz fans is that 'Tag was the biggest waste of money in franchise history. We paid the guy $40 million to be injured and wear sweat pants around SLC shopping malls. Remember the '97 and '98 Jazz teams that made it to the finals? Those would have been completely different outcomes had we had the cap room to bring on two (probably even three for what we wasted on "big O") decent back-up centers. NBA teams: don't waste your time and money on this man.

if you're going to compliment someone's money-making abilities, direct your praise to his agent for possibly being the most cunning man on the planet.

jaybate 10 years, 4 months ago


Thank you.

The job of each of us here is merely to say that which is already waiting to be said, and do so in surprising ways.

Nothing is original to a poster.

This place is a digitalization of Jung's collective unconsciousness.

Synchronicity rules, baby!

jaybate 10 years, 4 months ago


Take the refresher course, screw the dopamine, and titrate reality very slowly. :-)

Lance Hobson 10 years, 4 months ago

I love the debate, but I make my idiot assertions based on some idiotic behavior I witnessed out of Big O at KU. Case in point, I once saw him walking on campus acting like he was "gettin' jiggy with it" talking like he was from Compton (vice Duncanville,Texas) and yelling things like "Yo sweet mama how you doin'??!!" at a girl about a good 50 yards away. I was next to her and she muttered "Idiot" under her breath. At that point I made the conclusion that, yeah, Big O probably is an idiot. I also remember him talking smack in class acting like he was on an episode of Welcome Back Kotter vice a college classroom. Not to mention him giggling when Big Dog Robinson dunked on him in the Sweet 16 in '94.

So, he has done well for himself, and it was nice of him to give up his kidney, but that still doesn't mean he's not an idiot. Just a rich idiot.

Joel Hood 10 years, 4 months ago

There have been some really great observations and memories of Big O. I remember him having his best games at KU against Pig Country, Bryant Reeves. He would get mad, take out his front teeth, and then play with more energy than anyone thought possible. But, like someone mentioned above, this was something he could not sustain, either physically or psychologically. I used to get frustrated with his apparent lack of effort, but in hindsight, I now believe that he truly gave all that he could. He just didn’t have what it took to sustain that level of play but for brief periods. This marathon over sprint approach to basketball is what allowed him to last so long in the NBA, as opposed to the aforementioned Pig Country.

Clearly, O is a good man by donating his kidney to his sister. Maybe I am old fashioned, but he did the right thing when his girlfriend became pregnant. How many ballers do you remember who consistently did the right thing when challenges arose. But, LHMfan has every right to be pissed too. The Jazz did waste a lot of money on him when they could have been in a much better strategic position. This is the reason why I doubt that any NBA team will pick him up. His past history has shown what he is and there is really little upside to giving him a contract over another big with some actual growth potential.

Lance Hobson 10 years, 4 months ago

I just remembered that Dateline 20/20 or some equally silly expose show that did a story about the NCAA and how players should get paid. Big O's wife was interviewed, complaining about how little money they had to live on while they were in college. Talk about an odd couple, she's a shade over five feet tall.

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