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NBA players who think they had it tough growing up should talk to Leandro Barbosa

Jan 18, 2013, 12:40 PM EDT

Leandro Barbosa, Gerald Green AP

It’s a common story of NBA players — they focused on the game as a way they might be able to lift themselves and their family out of poverty and rough neighborhoods. That they were lucky to have the game keeping them out of gangs, keeping them alive.

And it is true.

But if guys think they had it tough growing up on Chicago’s south side or Red Hook in Brooklyn, they need to go talk to Leandro Barbosa.

In detailing the family challenges he faces — Barbosa missed games in December because his mother-in-law is in a medically-induced coma to keep her alive while they find replacement kidneys — the Brazilian point guard discussed what it was like growing up poor in Brazil to Jessica Camerato of

“When you have time, Google ‘favelas’ in Brazil,” he urged. “You will see houses on the hills and it is the most dangerous thing you can see . . . I don’t think you guys have that here in America and probably can’t even imagine how it is….

“We didn’t have beds to sleep on,” he said. “It was just blankets and we would sleep on the ground…. “Sometimes we had food, sometimes not,” he said. “I always had food because I was the youngest, so my sisters and brothers always saved food for me if we had a hard time to eat. I was the lucky one and I really appreciated that….

“The streets are really small,” he said. “I would walk and I could see guys with guns shooting people or putting fires on the people, all that kind of stuff. I had to (look straight ahead). I couldn’t look or say anything or say anything to anybody else or the cops because I could be the next one to be killed… When I was in school, I didn’t know if I was going to come back to my place alive or if I would leave my place alive because there were people shooting people. It was surprising for me a couple times that nothing happened, no shooting. It could have happened any time.”

If you want a partial vision of life in a favela, go watch “City of God” sometime.

It’s just a reminder — we are fans, this is our escape and sometimes we get caught up in the lack of production from a role player and lose perspective. These are human beings, who have been through and are going through personal ups and downs just like the rest of us. Having NBA money can ease some challenges, but the issues of life, death and love know no boundaries of class or ethnicity. Guys on the court are dealing with stuff off the court, just like you are.

And any time you think you’ve got it rough, there is someone who has had it worse.

  1. captainwisdom8888 - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    good change-up article i enjoyed it

    • saint1997 - Jan 19, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      liked the blurb at the end from Kurt, it is very true about how we lose our perspective in analysing players as if they aren’t people

  2. riggz91 - Jan 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Just goes to show you, poor people in America would be considered wealthy in most countries. Even the poor have running water, heat, electricity, even flat screens and games.

  3. hojo20 - Jan 18, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Some of those favelas are on a hillside & have a nice view, like being in the Hollywood Hills.

    • tuberippin - Jan 19, 2013 at 12:31 AM

      When you don’t have a bed to sleep in or food to eat on a consistent basis, I don’t think having a nice view is high on the list of “things considered important”.

  4. scalfor3 - Jan 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    When is bozo going to come on here and call this guy a “puh c”?

    • andyhr17 - Jan 18, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      It’s a quasi-Celtics related post, so it shouldn’t be long. There are a number of Lakers articles today, so let him log out of his other account first.

  5. rezburna - Jan 18, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Its a little ignorant to insinuate that growing up in the hoods of America isn’t rough because there are worse circumstances elsewhere. If that’s the case, I’m positive there are countries with situations much worse then the favela’s of Brazil. The Chicago and NY statement made a good article a stupid one. And to whoever that is that said the poor in America have all those things…no they don’t always have all that. Trust me, I know. People constantly face the dilemma of eating or paying the light bill.

    • tuberippin - Jan 19, 2013 at 12:33 AM

      No one said that growing up in the south side or in Red Hook isn’t tough. I spent some of my early years in Red Hook and I can say that yes, it is in fact tough living. That said, the article is about keeping things “in focus”, if you will. Red Hook was tough, but living in a favela would be more difficult in the same way that living in a favela would be tough, but living in Mogadishu would be more difficult.

  6. hollywood26 - Jan 18, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Dude I grew up in SE DC. I know poor. These folks in places like Brazil, and some of the African countries have it waaaaaaaaay worse.

    • ez0682 - Jan 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      You’re stupid stupid to response to you get a you get a rich talk about the talk about the Se dc could b worse I don’t see no dirt roads I don’t see no gang of dogs I see ghetto decent apartments with lights on the street you get a rich like I said there’s no such thin there’s no such thing as ghet ghetto and struggling in America compare to other countries you get a rich. Mono de mierda. Google what I just said. Moron

      • yanivvinay - Jan 18, 2013 at 6:50 PM

        Dude, he is saying that people in other countries have it harder. Please read the whole comment before popping a gasket.

  7. mbhcu98 - Jan 18, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    Decent article about Barbosa. But, just because he grew up in a flavella town doesn’t take away from someone else’s pain growing up. You blew the whole article by making it seem other people’s problems were so small in comparision to Barbosa’s. What I took away from it is, all these american born players need to shut up, you didn’t have it as hard as this guy. Sounds like he grew up with an abundance of love in his home. Even he had it better than some…….. here in America.

    • kinggw - Jan 19, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      Well said. You drove home point that rezburna was trying to.

  8. illmatic8582 - Jan 18, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    shut up Kurt…I can only afford things off the dollar menu at Mickeydees

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