Conversation with Tim Abromaitis: Like father, like son

Nov 26, 2019 by Andy West, Print
Conversation with Tim Abromaitis: Like father, like son

Over the last couple of decades it seems more and more common to see children of former professional basketball players also take on the sport and build their own successful careers. It is still rare, however, when second-generation players from the United States whose fathers had played professionally in Europe do the same.

Such is the case with Zenit St Petersburg power forward Tim Abromaitis, whose father Jim started his professional career almost four decades ago with the Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid. Not for the first time, Abromaitis will face his father's old club when Real visits St Petersburg on Friday in Round 11 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season.

"A three-point shot is one of my strengths and it wasn't even possible for him"

Jim played with Real in the 1980-81 season, went on to play in Italy with Pallacanesto Trieste, and spent two more seasons from 1983 to 1985 with Eczacıbası of Istanbul before finishing his career in Japan.

"My brother was born when he was in Japan, and I think it made it a little bit difficult when he was there," Tim says. "He was done playing before I was born."

Tim saw some tapes of his father playing, some of it from his time in Europe, and a little bit when he was playing in college in the late 1970s.

"I got a sense of him as a player," 30-year old Tim says. "From the video, I saw that my dad looked like a pretty good athlete, I think especially jumping off one foot. He could do that better than me.

"But I would say I'm a better shooter. Maybe he would take offense to that, but I think that's a better part of my game. I think he has a pretty good jump shot; I think it looks good whenever we are shooting around together. But it wasn't really part of his game when he was playing, I think that's the main difference."

"I was really living the experience my dad had, playing against his old team."

Comparisons are especially interesting because Jim Abromaitis, who turned 66 this year, played the same position as Tim and they are basically the same height.

"People have said that we physically move in a similar way. We both dealt with knee injuries, maybe that's a part of it," Tim explains. "For him, I think, it was a totally different game because there was no three-point line, so as a power forward he was more in towards the basket and finishing around the rim, whereas I stay on the perimeter a little bit more. A three-point shot is one of my strengths and it wasn't even possible for him."

Tim recalls that he was not pushed into playing basketball in any way. He also played ice hockey, soccer and baseball as a child, but it ended up as no surprise that he stuck with basketball.

"We always had basketball around the house, and I remember a little kid-hoop that I would shoot on," he says. "Up until I was 12 or 13, my father would coach the traveling team from our town. Probably four or five years I was playing with him as our coach."

Abromaitis senior enjoyed coaching and Tim enjoying playing for him. "He never pressured me into playing and I never felt like I had to play. It is just that I grew to love the game and he kept supporting me. He was always supportive of me playing basketball."

That support was especially important when Tim, like his father, decided to turn pro after his college career at Notre Dame, and came to play in Europe, first with ASVEL Villeurbanne in 2012.

A season later, Tim joined Strasbourg and made his EuroLeague debut. But what made that even more special were two regular season games against Real Madrid, a team which in Tim's case did not represent just a European powerhouse, but his father's former club, as well. Real won both games, but he scored 11 points in Madrid.

"It was definitely a cool experience," Tim remembers. "I wasn't intimidated by it, but it was definitely in the back of my head that I was really living the experience my dad had, playing against his old team. It was cool because before one of those games couple of his old teammates were there at the arena, and came up to say hello to me. It was a neat experience, and even though we lost, it was still fun to have that experience.

Abromaitis soon ended up joining Spanish side Tenerife, where he spent four seasons and faced Real on yearly basis. What will always remain is the influence his father's experience in Europe in 1980s had on Tim more than 30 years later.

"He has nothing but positive things to say about his time playing overseas."

"I hit couple of blocks on the road and think, 'I am sure it is going to turn around; my dad had a good experience. He was staying positive, so I should do the same thing'. I definitely think it helped me the first few years."

Abromaitis feels that knowing his dad's experiences prepared him better and adopt to playing and living in any country he played, first France, then Germany and Spain, and now Russia.

"I think it was a great experience for him," Tim says. "He has nothing but positive things to say about his time playing overseas. So he encouraged me to make the jump over here, and keep at it."