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Oscar Schmidt says he would have been ‘one of the 10 best ever’ had he played in the NBA

Sep 8, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

Oscar Schmidt is a legendary basketball player from Brazil who is being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

He was a star in international play during the 70s and 80s, but never played in the NBA because it would have meant that he’d be ineligible to play for his country at that time.

If Schmidt had played NBA basketball, he believes he would have been one of the game’s 10 best players of all time.

From Scott Howard-Cooper of

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 was drafted by the Nets in 1984, but he declined the opportunity to play in the states. In 1992 the eligibility rules for international play changed, and he could have jumped to the NBA then — except that at age 34, it was a little bit too late.

Schmidt was a pure shooter who could get his shot off almost anywhere over a single defender, and it’s very possible his claim might’ve come true. The laughs at the press conference weren’t intended to mock Schmidt’s statements — rather, they were a joyful response to the confidence he maintains, even now at age 55.

  1. bpurd - Sep 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    I belive him. For people who laugh and think it’s no chance just pop in the tape.

  2. zelaya322 - Sep 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    All I see is a bunch of open jump shots. He would have been on par with maybe Chris Mullin or Steve Kerr.

    • qpoiu1 - Sep 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      There weren’t just open jump shots. He could score from anywhere on the court, open or contested. Maybe he could have been one of the greatest pure scorers in NBA history if he played there on his prime (just to remember you: he is the #1 scorer in basketball history with more than 49000 points in his career)

    • asimonetti88 - Sep 8, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      On par with Chris Mullin means he’d be a HOFer for his NBA play.

    • louhudson23 - Sep 8, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      Chris Mullen is an undisputed HoF player with a well rounded inside,mid and outside game who loved to get out on the break,where he could slash or pull up with equal effect.Very,very few players can be considered to be “on par” with Chris Mullin…….. Steve Kerr was a good player,and an outstanding shooter… on some very good team. Oscar Schmidt pretty much got off his shot against anyone and everyone he ever played against…..

      • macka4 - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:18 AM

        Didn’t see Schmidt play much, only limited coverage in Olympic play. Mullin? To mention Kerr with Mullin is ridiculous. Mullin was an excellent scorer as well as shooter and good passer, pretty decent all around. Kerr was a shooter and that’s it. Shooter, not scorer.

  3. fan4awhile - Sep 8, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Playing in the NBA is just a different world. We are talking about ALL of the best put in the game every night and battleing it out. Its like watching NCAA players going to the pros in every sport. Just not the same (ask Tebow).

  4. raycharlesj - Sep 8, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Same as saying if some of those black players like Josh Gibson, Cool papa Bell, etc in the negro leagues had played in the Major Leagues they could have been the greatest major league players ever, Possibly?? But SO WHAT!!!!! you didn’t and you ARE NOT!!!!!!! woulda, coulda, shoulda. They weren’t allowed to play in the white league at that time but you could have played basketball in America and decided not to!!!!!! you had your chance shut up and accept your choices. What if Satchel Paige would have played in MLB at the age of 18 years old instead of being allowed to play at 42!!! years old???Paige was a right-handed pitcher and was the oldest rookie to play in MLB at the age of 42!!!!!!!!! years OLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • robforman - Sep 8, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      This post has way too many exclamation points.

      • tcclark - Sep 8, 2013 at 8:04 PM

        and they’re in the middle of the sentences…. weird

      • raycharlesj - Sep 14, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        And you read it ANYWAY??? ha ha ha

    • ddogdaddy - Sep 8, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      They are from ray charles. I think there has been enough said on this subject. Sure does explain the precarious writing skills for sure.

  5. marcuspokus - Sep 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Even NBA players who played against him in the olympics say he would have been one of the best ever had he played in the NBA. He could shoot over anyone on 1 on 1 situations. Sabonis is another player that would have been amongst the best players ever discussion had he played in the NBA in his prime prior to the injuries that slowed him down.

    • louhudson23 - Sep 8, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Sabonis was a 270 lb gazelle who could run,pass,shoot,rebound and block shots as well as anyone who ever played….he was a relative cripple by the time most of us saw him play…and he was still an impact NBA player….

  6. tcclark - Sep 8, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    He was very good. He certainly would have been a star in the NBA, but top 10 ever is pushing it. He may have been talented enough, but you need recognition in order to be considered one of the ten best players in the history of the game and at a time where players had a hard time keeping up with Jordan, Magic, and Bird, a player like Schmidt would never have gotten the recognition he needed. I mean John Stockton is one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game, but he was probably the 4th best player drafted in 1984. Schmidt would have a hard time even getting talked about with that draft class. He would have been good, but I’m thinking Adrian Dantley and Alex English good, not Jordan and Bird good.

    • macka4 - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:20 AM

      I’m thinking the same TC.

  7. truthplainandsimple - Sep 8, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    First, the international game is not and will never be the NBA game. Period. You see foreign players have these great games in international play ALL THE TIME and don’t make it in the NBA. Some do. But, there’s a huge physical and athletic difference when playing 82 games against the strongest, fastest, highly skilled and most athletic basketball players in the world. That’s what the NBA is and what it has always been. That’s why other countries seek out NBA players to build the sport in their country. Who knows what would have happened? Personally, I saw nothing in that video that I haven’t seen players do in college basketball. Not to mention, the level of competition looks WEAK.

  8. lhollis74 - Sep 8, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    Oscar you were no doubt a great player, but I have one question. Could any of those international players that ever guarded you have ever come close to guarding ANY of the nba’s greatest players? I think not. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Andre Kirilenko is the best international defender I’ve seen. Any disputes with that statement online community?

    • tcclark - Sep 9, 2013 at 5:54 AM

      Kirilenko is great stats wise, but pure one-on-one defense, I’d take Mikael Pietrus. The guy plays with such intensity on the defensive end which is weird because he’s from France and you’d expect him to just roll over and give up.

  9. hocsx - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:09 AM

    Maybe he talks a little too much, but he’s got a point. 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. So, could he be among the top 10, considering his role as pure scorer? I guess so. Check it out:;;

    • vinispider - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      and you didn’t mention the historical indianapolis pan am 87′ , he got 46 points

  10. raycharlesj - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    He “declined” to play in the NBA it’s that simple, he could have should have, would have??? he was drafted and choose not to play, end of story. I could have been an astronaut if I got hire by NASA!!!! I was not and he is not one of the 10 greatest NBA players.

  11. antistratfordian - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Riiiiiiight. Al Bundy scored 4 touchdowns in a single game and had many offers to junior colleges – he would’ve been an all time great too.

    Plus, think about this: Schmidt chose Brazil’s national team over the NBA on several occasions. So the desire to compete at the highest level against the best players in the world wasn’t even there. He doesn’t have the “stuff” of top 10 material.

    I don’t even think he would’ve been as good as Detlef Schrempf.

    • Dos - Oct 13, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      I played against him a few times when he was at the end of his career in Brazil (I was a young junior player on a small team and he played for one of Brazil’s biggest teams). I personally do not like him that much because by the time I saw him play he would complain all the time and tried to persuade refs to make calls his way. But then again, I think he was 40 at that time and still shooting lights out.

      I don’t think he would be a top 10 NBA player if he had decided to go, but to say he “did not have the “stuff” of top 10 material” is not correct either. It is difficult to explain to Americans how important playing for the national team was for Brazilians (and arguably to most other nationalities too), especially in the 1980s and 1990s. So I believe he had the “stuff” exactly because he decided to not go to the NBA and continue to defend his national team in competitions against the best in the world, including the Dream Team.

      You are also not realizing the way he dominated European leagues at that time. He could not guard anyone, but no one could guard him either. So on the 1 on 1 NBA style, I think he would do quite well.

      But it is all a matter of perspective. Everyone knows that one guy they saw playing somewhere that could have been great. At least Oscar does not have to prove anything to anyone because he is now a Hall of Famer, alongside all these NBA greats.

      So you can think that he would not be as good as Schrempf, but I am willing to bet Detlef himself would disagree with you. Either way, being in the HOF is not small feat, so one way or another he is one of the greatest ever, even if he loves to run his mouth once in a while.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:55 PM

        “It is difficult to explain to Americans how important playing for the national team was for Brazilians (and arguably to most other nationalities too), especially in the 1980s and 1990s.”

        It’s not difficult, you just did it. But I’m not buying it. A lot of players from that time said the same thing – hiding behind their nationalism. But I suspect they knew that they were going to be small fish in a big pond in the NBA. That’s no fun.

        Schmidt wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He wanted to dominate in lesser leagues and still have the world regard him as on the level with NBA greats. Sorry, that’s not how it works. You either show up or shut up. He didn’t show up then and he won’t shut up now!

        “You are also not realizing the way he dominated European leagues at that time.”

        What dominated European leagues at the time was the stuff of average NBA players. Not even good ones. Take Joe Jellybean Bryant for example – averaged 8.7 ppg over 8 seasons in the NBA, goes to Italy and regularly puts up 30-40-50 point games in the late 80s.

        “I came over and I was scoring 35-40 points (a game) in Europe. I thought I could do that here.” -Drazen Petrovic

        “So you can think that he would not be as good as Schrempf, but I am willing to bet Detlef himself would disagree with you.”

        Schrempf would probably disagree with me about a lot of things. He’d still be wrong.

        I think Oscar’s actions say more than anything we’re typing here. He avoided the NBA and eventually became angry towards it because observers weren’t listing him whenever they mentioned the world’s best players (all NBA players). Then he comes out at age 55 saying something as preposterous as, “I would’ve been a top 10 NBA player.” But if he had the “stuff” of a top 10 NBA player we would’e seen it – because that “stuff” will not be denied – national pride would not have been able to hold it back for so long.

        But maybe his path was the smartest thing for him to have done because this way he can claim whatever he wants and no one will ever know! If he went to the NBA he would’ve been average and that would’ve been the end of that.

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