Having A Ball

The NBA assistant coach Joseph Blair counts his blessings.

Article by Debra Wallace

Photography by Scott Suchman

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Washington Wizards’ assistant coach Joseph “JB” Blair eagerly shares his heartfelt life lessons with up-and-coming athletes who seek out his guidance and mentorship. Proudly wearing the moniker “Vegan Coach,” he feels a strong sense of spirituality and gratitude for his many blessings, as well as a strong obligation to give back – to his players, to children who want to follow in his footsteps, and to his community.

“I want young athletes to understand that the road I traveled is the road I paved on my own and that they can’t copy it; everyone’s path is different and unique,” explains Blair, who formerly played with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Harlem Globetrotters.

He spent his career as a power forward and center. After several other coaching stints, he joined the Washington Wizards for the 2021–22 season. “Becoming who you want to become requires consistency, diligence, putting in the work every single day, and maintaining your focus,” he adds. “I have this big imaginary water barrel filled with blessings, and if I hoard them the water becomes stagnant and unusable. Constantly giving blessings out to others, nourishes both me and others.”

For the Love of the Game
Blair’s initial love for basketball, and now for coaching, is all about being a positive role model for the next generation. “For me, this is being part of something greater than myself. No one person can do anything; it’s a team effort to make sure everyone puts in work together,” he says. “My love for the game and coaching is the same; camaraderie and competition.”

For Blair, it all starts with the understanding that none of us can succeed on our own. “As a player, I loved it when I became better, stronger, could jump higher or run a little faster,” he explains. “As a coach when I see those things in our players, when that light switch turns on and it all clicks together, and seeing your team work collectively as a unit, and become a family, it’s an amazing sensation.”

How the ‘Vegan Coach’ Thrives
As an effective leader, Blair’s worldview is rooted in  his deep concern for all living things, creating a more sustainable future, and “conscious living.”

“I understand that every decision I make will affect someone else,” he says. “If we can start living that way and show love and compassion toward not just those like us, but those who are unlike us, not just in our diet but in our everyday lives, the better it is for all of humanity.”

As a proponent of a vegan lifestyle, he frequents Potomac-area vegan restaurants, including Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, DC Vegan, and PLNT Burger. He also has a few favorite go-to holiday recipes, including chickpea ceviché and Mexican-style tacos topped with delicious homemade salsa.

A Special Friendship
After playing basketball in Italy for six years, Blair formed a relationship with legendary designer Giorgio Armani. The two hit it off right away, and before he knew it Armani offered to design and create Blair’s tuxedo and his wife’s wedding gown in what turned out to be an extremely generous gift.

JB still recalls the 2005 fitting with awe. “The next wedding that he did after mine was Tom Cruise’s, so I was super taken aback,” he says. “I remember his assistant telling me, ‘You don’t know how many famous people call him all the time, wanting him to design their stuff, and he says no.’ So, it was such an honor!”

Jumping Out of Bed Every Day
When it comes to appreciating his personal and professional life, Blair practices a five-second rule after his alarm goes off. “Within five seconds I am out of bed, saying good morning to God and getting my day started,” he continues. “It’s the thought of what opportunities that day holds for me. I know every day holds at least one opportunity that will help me grow, change my life, or help me change the lives of the people around me,” he says. “What more could you ask for?”

“Constantly giving blessings out to others, nourishes both me and others.”

“Every single day holds at least one opportunity that will help me grow.”

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