In his debut season in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Nick Weiler-Babb is making a strong impression with FC Bayern Munich. The 25-year-old guard has featured in every game for the playoffs-chasing team, ranking second in the roster’s total minutes played to become a key component of Coach Andrea Trinchieri's strategy.
Although Weiler-Babb is a novice in European competition, he is following a well-trodden family path and has been able to receive plenty of guidance from his older brother. Chris Babb is a veteran of the 7DAYS EuroCup, having played 60 games in the competition over four seasons with radiopharm Ulm, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Promitheas Patras. Nick is the younger of the two brothers and has always found in Chris someone to look up to.
"Growing up as a younger brother having somebody you can look up to is a blessing."
"He's been a really impactful person in my life," the Bayern star said. "I've always looked up to him as a big brother. He's always been doing the right things and growing up as a younger brother having somebody you can look up to is a blessing.
"He's almost six years older than me, so it’s a pretty big age difference. When we younger, we weren't as close as we are now, just because of that age difference. I always wanted to be around him and his friends and being the annoying little brother. Sometimes, he didn’t want me to be around! But we've grown closer over the years and he's helped me a lot over my career."
Considering the age gap, Chris started out on his basketball path earlier than Nick, who remembers following the elder's career very closely right from the start.
"When Chris was at high school I was a little bit younger, obviously, but I was always trying to be on the court before the games with him – rebound, be in the layup lines, like a little annoying kid!
"Chris has always had success. In high school, he was one of the top scorers in the state and when he got to Iowa State they did really good – his team started the whole turnaround at Iowa State – and then as a professional he's had success. He's been successful his whole life. But I don't think that's what made me take basketball seriously as well. It's just the sport I love the most."
Inevitably, Nick regularly faced comparisons to his older brother when he was growing up and initially found that tough to handle, but he has now learned to look on the positive side.
"When I was younger, I got offended by it a lot: 'Oh, you're Chris's little brother, little Chris'…some people even called me Chris!" Nick said. "When I was younger that really annoyed me because I wanted to be my own person and do my own things, but as I got older, I took it as a compliment because he was always someone I looked up to and to be compared to him was a good thing."
After a brief stay with Boston Celtics, Chris moved to Europe to join Ulm back in 2015, when Nick was only 19 years old and had just finished his freshman year at college. Chris has played in Europe ever since, so by the time Nick graduated from Iowa State in 2019, he was well aware that pursuing his life in basketball on the other side of the Atlantic was a realistic option.
"I think the biggest part of moving to Europe is the level of comfort that you feel and that's a problem for Americans," he explained. "They don't really feel comfortable and don't know what's going to happen. So having Chris telling me what’s going to happen, lay that foundation of what to expect and how to treat the situation, helped me a bunch."
Witnessing the positive experiences of his older brother was a big factor in convincing Nick to accept an offer to start his professional career from German team Riesen Ludwigsburg – although he also made it clear that Chris left the ultimate responsibility of making the decision to Nick himself.
"He doesn't like to just tell me what to do; he wants me to figure out things for myself. So he'll give me all his advice, but let me make my own decisions," said Nick. "But he did tell me Germany was one of his favorite places to play. He felt really comfortable here, a good atmosphere and good cities, so he did help in the decision-making. In the end, the process was pretty easy, especially because in Ludwigsburg we had John Patrick, an American coach, and two American assistant coaches, so that made it a lot easier. Germany is a great place."
In his sole season with Ludwigsburg, Nick did well enough to attract the attention of Bayern and was more than excited to step up to another level.
"He was always someone I looked up to and to be compared to him was a good thing."
"It's a big jump," he admitted. "Especially from not playing internationally at all, coming to a city like Munich and to play in the EuroLeague. I knew it was a big step up, but if you're not ready for the challenge, you shouldn't be in sports."
Chris was also on the move last summer, returning to Germany to join Telekom Baskets Bonn, and so this season will give the brothers their first-ever chance to play against each other. Tuesday, March 16, when Bayern will welcome Bonn to Munich for their first meeting of the season, is a date marked in red on the family calendar.
"We have never played against each other, so it will be big brother versus little brother for the first time!" said Nick. "My parents are back in the States but they are able to watch all our games, so I'm sure it will be an exciting day for them. I think it might be like Seth and Steph Curry’s parents, both of them wearing half of each jersey! In the end, they will probably cheer for whoever wins!"