Oscar Schmidt often tested his strength against NBA players. Although Brazil usually lost, Schmidt usually played very well. Source: fiba.basketball
Oscar Schmidt often tested his strength against NBA players. Although Brazil usually lost, Schmidt usually played very well. Source: fiba.basketball

Oscar Schmidt – the scoring machine who chose Brazil over the NBA

Basketball OlyBet 10.07.2024

In the 1984 NBA draft, a total of 228 players were selected. Alongside future legends Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, and Charles Barkley, a player was chosen as the 131st pick who never played a single game in the NBA but had a career that is almost impossible to replicate.

He did not miss out on playing in the NBA due to a lack of interest. He participated in the New Jersey Nets’ preseason training camp and games and even received an offer from the club. However, there were two major problems.

First, the salary offered was significantly lower than what he earned in Italy. Second, joining the NBA would have meant turning his back on his homeland, as playing in the NBA would have prevented him from representing his national team for several years.

He also declined later NBA offers. He did not like how excellent players from outside the USA were often relegated to the role of the sixth man at best in the NBA. He was a confident star who enjoyed the attention, loved his country, and did not want to sit on the bench.

This is the story of Oscar Schmidt, a Brazilian who played professional basketball for 29 years, retired at the age of 45, and has scored the most points in both the Olympics and the World Championship.

Downed the USA

Nowadays few players have long and successful careers despite their teams essentially playing four-on-five on defense. Schmidt, who reportedly scored 49,737 points as a professional, was notoriously bad at stopping opponents. However, his defensive lapses were almost always forgiven because the 206 cm tall forward was exceptionally skilled on offense.

The Brazilian was far from a physical talent. Quite the opposite, but his excellent footwork and soft shooting touch made him a player who was awfully difficult to guard.

Take, for example, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Brazil was soundly beaten by the USA by 44 points, but Schmidt poured in 24 points against NBA stars, being guarded by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Clyde Drexler.

Some sources even suggest that Schmidt influenced the USA’s decision to send the Dream Team to Barcelona. At the 1987 Pan American Games, the USA narrowly lost to Brazil in the final, with Schmidt scoring 46 points, including 35 in the second half. That USA team featured future NBA legend David Robinson and future two-time All-Star Danny Manning.

That triumph was particularly significant for Brazil, having lost to the USA 80-96 in the semifinals of the previous year’s World Championship. Additionally, the Americans had a 34-game winning streak before the final and had never lost a game at home on the international stage. The victory was even more remarkable because the Americans led by 14 points at halftime.

“That game was the best part of my life because we proved to the whole world that it was possible to beat them,” Schmidt recalled to The Denver Post. “And we were afraid to lose by 50.”

Schmidt was right. Since the USA couldn’t win gold at the 1988 Olympics either, changes were needed for success. A year later, FIBA announced that NBA players could participate in the Olympics. Before that, only amateurs and professional players in other professional leagues were allowed to compete.

Incidentally, Schmidt is confident that if he had joined the NBA, we would consider him one of the league’s all-time greatest players. “I would be top 10. For sure. One guy can’t defend me. You need two. At least,” he boasted to The Vertical.

His former rival, Australian Andrew Gaze, believes that Schmidt was simply ahead of his time in terms of the NBA. “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 wasn’t really considering international players the way they are now.”

13 years in Europe

Schmidt started his basketball journey in Brazil and moved to Italy at the age of 24. While Italy has some strong and wealthy clubs by European standards today, in the 1980s, Italian club basketball was the dominant force in Europe. Many great stars played there and the clubs were rich. It’s no wonder Italian clubs won the EuroLeague five times in the 1980s.

Schmidt, who had made a name for himself in Brazil, didn’t immediately join the Italian championship. He started with the second-division team JuveCaserta, and it took the duo only one season to reach the top league, where Schmidt could then test himself in European club competition.

In total, Schmidt played in Italy for 11 years, representing JuveCaserta and Pavia. Both teams retired his jersey after he left.

Despite never winning the Italian championship, Schmidt was the top scorer in the league for seven seasons. He also did not achieve significant success in European competitions, although in 1989, JuveCaserta reached the final of the second-strongest club competition over here, losing 113-117 to Real Madrid. Schmidt scored 44 points, while Real’s star Dražen Petrović replied with 62.

While playing in Italy, Schmidt amassed a large number of fans, including a young American. His father Joe was a basketball player in Italy, and the boy admired the Brazilian so much that he later called him one of his childhood idols. This youngster was Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

In 1993, Schmidt left Italy and moved to Spain. Two seasons with Valladolid in the Spanish championship brought him an average of 28.3 points per game and one scoring title.

At 37, Schmidt returned to his homeland and won so much silverware that listing it all would take an eternity.

Loved the national team

Schmidt represented Brazil in five Olympics, scoring a total of 1,093 points, averaging 28.8 points per game.

His first two Olympics, The 1980 and 1984 Summer Games were just the introduction to the Seoul Games. In 1988, when the Soviet Union won gold, Schmidt set the nets on fire. He scored 338 points in eight games, averaging a whopping 42.3 points per game.

Notably, Brazil came close to defeating the eventual winners at the Seoul Games. In the quarterfinals, Schmidt had the opportunity to tie the game in the final minute, but he missed, Arvydas Sabonis grabbed the rebound, and Rimas Kurtinaitis extinguished Brazil’s hopes with a three-pointer.

Schmidt scored a total of 906 points in World Championships. While he ranks first in points averaged in the Olympics, he is fourth in that regard in World Championships, with an average of 26.7 points per game. He is surpassed only by Slovenian Luka Dončić (27.0), South Korean Shin Dong-pa (32.6), and Greek Nikos Galis (33.7). Unlike the players before him, Schmidt has a World Championship medal: a bronze from 1978.

It is clear that the colorful Schmidt is undoubtedly one of the greatest offensive players in history. But is he one of the greatest basketball players of all time? No, because to achieve that, he would have needed to play some defense as well…


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