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Hispanic Heritage Month In Focus: Brazilian Hoops Legend Oscar Schmidt

This is part of The Shadow League’s Hispanic Heritage Month In Focus series celebrating Latino excellence in sports and culture.

If you’re simply a casual basketball fan, the name Oscar Schmidt might be obscure to you. But for those who follow the game with a religious fervor, that name occupies a place alongside the likes of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as not only one of the greatest talents of the modern generation, but one of basketball’s All-Time G.O.A.T.’s as well.

Oscar Schmidt Hall of Fame Feature

Check out this feature about Oscar Schmidt from when he entered the Basketball Hall of Fame. About the NBA: The NBA is the premier professional basketball league in the United States and Canada.

That’s a pretty heavy statement about a man that never played a single minute in the NBA. But for those that know the game, and to those that competed against him, they understand what Oscar Schmidt represents.

The Brazilian scoring machine’s nickname was “Mao Santa”, which translates to mean “The Holy Hand.”

He is the Olympics’ all-time leading scorer with 1,093 points. He scored more points at one single Olympics, 338 at the 1988 Seoul games, than anyone ever. He owns four of the top-five highest single-game scoring records, with 55 against Spain, 46 against the Soviet Union, 46 against Puerto Rico in 1988 and 45 against Puerto Rico in the 1996 games in Atlanta, when he was 38 years old.

Oscar Schmidt (55pts) vs. Spain – Olympics Record (1988)

Just some beautiful shooting to the sounds of the court and the crowd… The record for points in an Olympics game set by the legendary Oscar Schmidt. The transition threes he takes and makes in this game, perhaps, represent the least fucks given I’ve ever seen.

In the ’88 Seoul Olympics, he averaged 42.2 points in eight games.

Schmidt’s scoring arsenal was utterly unstoppable. Standing 6-foot-8, he could bang from deep, had a delicious mid-range repertoire and was ferocious at the rim.

In today’s NBA, where perimeter shooting is at a premium in the age of position-less basketball, Schmidt would light up scoreboards with reckless abandon because, above all, he was a long-range marksman with no conscience who could shoot the ball with deadly accuracy.

On the real, to paraphrase Detective Alonzo HarrisKlay Thompson and Steph Curry ain’t got shit on him!

For those who are unfamiliar, he’s the man who stoked the embers that led USA Basketball to send the Dream Team to  the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Five years prior, Schmidt led his Brazilian squad to a 120-115 over Team USA to capture the Gold Medal in the Pan American Games at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. He obliterated our college stars like Rex Chapman, Fennis Dembo, Pervis Ellison, Jeff Lebo, Danny Manning and David Robinson, among others, scoring 35 of his 46 points in the second half.

1987 Pan Am Gold Basketball USA v s Brazil

Brazil Upsets USA Behind Oscar Schmidt’s 44 points

Prior to that game, Team USA head coach Denny Crum knew that Brazil had a good player. He just wasn’t too familiar with his name. In an exceptional 2014 Grantland piece, Amos Barshad wrote:

In the postgame press conference, the New York Times reported, thenU.S. mens head coach Denny Crum forgot the name of Brazils best player. Finally, one of his players flipped through a roster and called out the name Oscar Schmidt.

Looking back now, Crum says, I wasnt that into international basketball, and I dont even think our players knew too much about him. And then they start setting picks for him out there, I mean, at 30 feet from the basket. And he just kept throwing it in.

Whom did Crum have guarding Oscar? It didnt matter! We tried three or four guys. It didnt matter. The things that he did Crum is still stunned by what he saw that day. He may be the best in the world to have never played in the NBA.

This was the beginning of the end for U.S. basketballs amateur status.

***

When the U.S. squad failed to win Gold at the 1988 Games in Seoul, America’s dominance on the worldwide stage had significantly diminished. In order for Team USA to deal with the international ascendance, which was personified by the brilliance of the man known as the Holy Hand, they had to start from scratch by bringing in the biggest guns from the NBA.

Oscar Schmidt (46 pts) USSR 110:105 Brazil Olympics Seoul 1988

Oscar Schmidt (46 pts) USSR 110:105 Brazil Olympics Seoul 1988 Follow Me https://www.facebook.com/pages/Basketball/794904787263997 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Football-Matches/852849401406980 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Football-History/490279404457262 https://twitter.com/footballmatche https://twitter.com/BasketFootbal

Had he joined the NBA in his prime in the mid-1980’s instead of playing in Europe and with the Brazilian National Team, Schmidt would be a household name today. But had it gone down like that, he wouldn’t be known as the man that forever changed the landscape of international hoops because NBA players, back then, were not allowed to play for Brazil’s national squad.  

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is known as the greatest scorer in the history of the NBA. But the greatest scorer in the history of the game? That would be Oscar Schmidt.

In America, Schmidt was more of an urban legend in the ’80s. He routinely put up 50-point games in the Italian pro league, considered the best competition outside of the NBA. People had heard about how good he was, but he wasn’t validated in the eyes of many who hadn’t seen him play. 

But when his 46-point outburst in the Pan Am Games led Brazil to the Gold Medal, while simultaneously ending Team USA’s 34-game winning streak and delivering their first international loss ever on its home soil, those who witnessed it knew that he was indeed the real deal.

 When he got into a zone, with his size at 6-8 and his mentality, once he got going, he was one of the toughest guys you would ever want to go up against, former Seton Hall star and Australian Olympian Andrew Gaze once said. I think if he came through in a later generation, he would have been very successful in the NBA. But back when he was at his best, there were very few international players. The NBA wasnt really considering international players the way they are now.

Schmidt played a huge role in kicking the door open for the 108 players from 42 foreign countries that appeared on opening day NBA rosters last season.

People may talk about his defensive liabilities as a reason to keep him off of the game’s Mount Rushmore. But he explained his approach to scoring at the expense of exerting great effort on defense by once saying, “Some people, they move the piano. Some people, they play the piano.

Consider this: Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s career scoring leader with 38,387 points. Over 26 years and across four continents, Schmidt scored 49,737 points. FORTY-NINE THOUZAN’!!!!

Oscar Schmidt Mix [HD]

Oscar Schmidt is hands down the greatest scorer that never played in the NBA. Song: The Script- Hall of Fame ft. will.i.am No copyright infringement intended. All media belong to their respectful owners.

Those numbers are beyond garish. In the Serie A Italian league, he regularly busted Joe Jellybean Bryant’s ass in front of his young son, Kobe, who could be found dribbling around and shooting at halftime of games, in addition to playing under the scorer’s table.  

When I was growing up over there, Kobe once said, he was a living legend.

And to this day, when it comes to the legend of Oscar Schmidt, ain’t a damn thing changed.

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