Oscar Schmidt And What Could Have Been


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — He has a personality that splashes everywhere and a big laugh to match. Not quite a Magic Johnson shakes-the-walls laugh, but not far off either.

Except that Oscar Schmidt is being serious now.

He said he would have been one of the 10 best players in the NBA if the basketball world had been different in the 1970s and ‘80s, and he came to the United States. And not one of the 10 best in the league. One of the 10 best ever,

“Yes,” Schmidt said. “Anytime. It was easier, because in the NBA at that time it was one-on-one, always. One-on-one, I’m free. If it comes to two players guarding me, maybe.”

Insert big laugh.

“I would be one of the best 10 ever.”

Schmidt officially enters the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon via the International committee as a Brazilian great who played in five Olympics, led the shocking upset of the United States in the title game of the 1987 Pan-American Games in Indianapolis, could score on anybody, and also starred in Italy. But the closest Schmidt got to the NBA was when the Nets drafted him in the sixth round in 1984.

Signing with the NBA at that time would have meant being ineligible for the national team, and Schmidt was not willing to make that tradeoff. The Nets pursued him three years in a row, he said, but no way. After the rules were changed to allow the Dream Team to play in the 1992 Olympics, sure, except that Schmidt was 34 by the time of the historic Barcelona Games. It would be different under the current rules.

“Give me two months of practice, I kill everybody else,” he said Saturday at the Hall of Fame, the day before the induction ceremony.

Another big laugh.

“There was not a price [the Nets could have offered]. There was national team. That’s it. The national team doesn’t have a price. It’s proud. It’s what you live for. And today, people don’t like to play for the national team. That’s very sad for me.”

Schmidt was a 6-foot-9 scoring machine at small forward in the Larry Bird mold, able to shred defenses without beating many opponents in a race or a jumping contest. He could shoot and he was smart. Perfect, then, that Larry Bird agreed to be his presenter Sunday afternoon at Symphony Hall.

Schmidt was asked what he would have averaged in the NBA and said, “One point a minute. Twenty minutes, 20 points. Forty minutes, maybe 60.”

C’mon. Get serious.

“Did you see me play?” Schmidt fired back.

But a point a minute?

“One point a minute at least,” he said. “Do you know how many hours I practiced a day.”

Eight, he answered.

Schmidt will not soften his answer. With a different set of eligibility rules, he would have been one of the all-time NBA greats, and that’s that. To him, there is no debate. There certainly is no big laugh about that.


  1. hocsx says:

    Maybe he talks a little too much (and he is not too polite or humble), but he’s got a point. People say he would not fare so well had he been up against NBA players. There’s no way we can know for sure, but we can look at the Brazil vs. USA stats at the Summer Olympics to see how he performed against top players: in 1988 (vs. last non-NBA team, but still had Majerle, Robinson, Richmond, Hawkings, Manning), scored 31 points; in 1992 (vs. Dream Team), scored 24 points; in 1996 (Dream Team 2), scored 26 points. Could he be among the top 10, considering his role as pure scorer? It’s possible. Check it out: http://www.basketball-reference.com/olympics/games/1988-09-21-USA-BRA; http://www.basketball-reference.com/olympics/games/1992-07-31-USA-BRA; http://www.basketball-reference.com/olympics/games/1996-07-30-USA-BRA.

    • Rupp says:

      He was an amazing scorer but that’s almost all. He played poor def and he had not such physical talent to play as an all star. I saw him in Italy for years and years. One of the best all time shooter but no way he could play defense on an NBA wing.

      • danilovboas says:

        Absolutely wright. He was selfish, and bad defender. Tall for a SG-SF, he wasn’t a good rebouder too. Yeah, he scored many vs the NBA tops, but Brazil always lost.
        He was a warrior in field, but so self-centred too. I’m brazilian, and Oscar wasn’t even the best brazilian player ever.

  2. rdeano7 says:

    Got to respect his decision to stay loyal to his country but i feel he vetoed the right to call himself one of the all time greats by not testing himself at the highest level, in the NBA.

  3. dudaguerra27 says:

    Not as humble as he politically should be, but bluntly right. Most prolific scorer of the sport, 1k pts more than Karren, but if you consider Brazilian national team games he tops Kareen by 11k. Official games only. Holds, also, the 3-point shootout record of 27 out of 30 points on the Euroleage All Star weekend. And the list goes on and on.