When I introduced myself to 44-year-old Alaa Abdelnaby at a local bookstore, he asked, “How did you know me?” How?! He’s quite possibly, at 6’ 10”, the tallest man in the area, and any Bloomfield basketball fan would recognize perhaps the greatest center ever to grace the Bengal hardwood. I also told the Egyptian-born Abdelnaby that I often relive the play in the 1986 Essex County Tournamant semifinals when he jumped from the foul line and rammed a thunderous jam home against the heavily favored Montclair Mounties. “Wow, you remember that?” Of course. Bloomfield won the game in an upset, and that moment is etched in many a memory.
Alaa Abdelnaby scored well over 1,000 points in two full varsity seasons at Bloomfield, and then went on to play for Duke University, and also had a nice run in the National Basketball Association. He now is a studio analyst and does color commentary for CBS Sports and Westwood One Radio.
1) You originally lived in Nutley. What did the move to Bloomfield mean to you?
It was tough moving to Bloomfield at that age. Having to leave all your childhood friends and move to a new school was intimidating. Initially, I wasn't accepted by the Bloomfield establishment. Not sure I am now, either. I always felt like an outsider until basketball season started my junior year.
2) Describe when you scored your 1,000th point.
I remember my 1,000 point game. It was in Ridgewood. I felt good about the accomplishment but I remember being embarrassed by the attention (stopping the game and all).
3) Bloomfield had a great run in the 1986 Essex County Tournament, beating powerhouses like Clifford Scott and Montclair, both games played in the old Bengal gym, where over the years many great games were played. Describe the feeling of those big games.
My friends and I still talk about how much fun we had in that gym. I love that gym! I remember how much fun the crowd was having cheering the team on! Those are special memories I'll always have.
4) What is your favorite basketball career memory, and which moment do you wish had gone differently?
My favorite moment had to be the East Regional Final my senior year. It was played in the Meadowlands with a lot on the line (Final 4)! I played my best game in front of 86 of my friends and family! That's a lot of ticket requests! We won, I played well and I got to run into the stands and hug my parents. That was my best day! My toughest day was (National Basketball Association) Draft night. I was told I'd be picked between 12th-16th and to go 25th was disappointing! I did get picked by a great team (Portland Trailblazers) that won a lot so everything worked out.
5) You were a Parade and McDonald's All-American, played for a stellar program at Duke, and also had a 5-year NBA career. Many would say you've had a dream life. What are your secrets to success and advice you can give to youngsters?
The best advice I can give is go to school to find out what you love to do. Passion for your profession is key. You have to love something you're going to do for a long time. I found basketball and then searched for every advantage I could find in becoming the best player I could be. Hard work and a certain stubbornness got me to Duke and the NBA. Find what you love and never stop! Pretty simple.