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The Man from Brazil

June 09, 2003
June 09, 2003

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June 9, 2003

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The Man from Brazil

RETIRED At age 45, Oscar Daniel Bezerra Schmidt, a.k.a. Oscar,
the Brazilian basketball star whose defense-free approach to the
game, and conscience-free approach to launching shots, fixed in
the American mind one of the earliest images of the international
player.

This is an article from the June 9, 2003 issue Original Layout

Well before the foreign invasion of the past decade transformed
the NBA, Oscar led his national team to its most renowned
victory, scoring 46 points in Brazil's 120-115 Pan Am Games upset
of the U.S in 1987. "He had the most grooved three-point shot you
ever saw," says Dan Peterson, who coached against Oscar in the
Italian leagues. In nine seasons in Italy, Oscar sank 46.4% of
his three-point attempts and left in 1993 as Italian basketball's
alltime leading scorer. "He was a lot like Larry Bird," says
Peterson. "He had this beautiful understanding of the pivot foot
and reading his defender." To Brazilians it hardly mattered that
national team coach Ari Vidal was once reduced to offering him
chocolate to get him to play defense.

The man known as mao santa, the Holy Hand, never played NBA ball.
He was drafted by the Nets in the sixth round in 1984 but turned
down their offer of the league-minimum $75,000, since he was
making triple that in Italy. By the time he moved to the Spanish
league and then back home to close out his club career (he
averaged 33.1 points in his final season), two Italian teams,
Caserta and Pavia, had retired his jersey. In Brazil they'd like
to bronze his right hand. "Some of us are piano movers," Marcel
Souza, Oscar's sidekick on that Brazilian Pan Am team, said in
1987, "and some of us are piano players." --Alexander Wolff

COLOR PHOTO: HANS DERYK/AP (OSCAR) THE BEAUTIFUL GAME Oscar's five Olympics included a matchup withScottie Pippen in Atlanta in 1996.