Greg Ostertag had a basketball career that most people could only dream of. He played college ball at Kansas, played in a Final Four, was a first-round draft pick, played more than a decade in the NBA, and helped the Utah Jazz reach back-to-back NBA Finals.
That’s impressive stuff. And yet, when he looks back on his career, he does so with regret.
“I had a good career, (but) I could have had a lot better career,” Ostertag said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I took for granted that I was 7-foot and rode that as long as I could.”
Ostertag, at 7-2, averaged 4.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in the NBA.
“I’ve been this tall since I was a sophomore in high school, so everything was easy for me – up until I got to Kansas,” he said. “I realized guys were a little bigger and a little stronger, but I still took it for granted. I never really put in the work that I should have put in to be a better player. People might not agree, but I’m fairly athletic. The sports that I pick up or try to do, I’m usually pretty good at. I just don’t put the effort in to be really good at – or didn’t put the effort in to be really good at. But I rode my career as a 7-footer just based on the abilities that I had. It is what it is. I had a good long career. I played with a really good team and was able to go to the Finals twice. But I got regrets and I look back on it and I wish I would have worked harder.”
Ostertag, 44, has a family and lives on a small farm in Texas. He loves to hunt, fish, feed his cows and chickens, and ride his tractor. But most days, he’s content sipping tea and watching television.
“It turns out I’ve got a bit of a lazy streak,” Ostertag said, laughing. “I’m not afraid to sit in my recliner and watch TV. “I’ll be First-Team All-American recliner.”
Ostertag played for Utah from 1995-04, spent one season with Sacramento, and returned to the Jazz in 2005 before retiring in 2006.
“I think about it still,” Ostertag said. “When I’m sitting on a tractor cutting hay or mowing the yard, my mind starts to wander. I think a lot of people have regrets in their life and they think back (and say) ‘I wish I could’ve, I wish I could’ve.’ But then I go do something. I have a 4-year-old and she walks in the room and I move on. But I still have (regrets). There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have them.”
Ostertag said that Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone, and John Stockton often pushed him to work harder. In his early 20s, Ostertag didn’t get it. Now in his mid-40s, he does.
“Now that I look back on it, I understand why they were always on my butt, on my ass,” Ostertag said. “Jerry and I constantly were at each other’s throats, and I always thought it was just because he needed somebody to yell at. He wasn’t going to yell at John and Karl. He used to call me The Pissing Post. I thought he was just on me because he needed somebody to yell at, but now that I look back on it, he was on me because he did – and Karl and John did – they all saw something in there that I wouldn’t let out.”