Oscar Daniel Bezerra Schmidt is a former professional basketball player who hails from Brazil, the land who’s hosting the 2016 Olympics, and the reason this article was sparked. He’s been retired for just 13 years and his final professional season concluded when he was just 45 years young, making him the longest-tenured pro basketball player in history.
Schmidt’s career spanned 29 years for nine different clubs in three different countries, and outside of club play, the Holy Hand appeared in five Olympic games for his homeland — 1980-1996. Schmidt spent all those years as a ball player because he was really great at putting that round ball in the basket, and he scored 49,737 total points in his career, making him basketball’s official leading scorer; he’s also the only player to score more than 1,000 points in Olympic play, and his five trips left him with 1,093.
On 16 different occasions, Schmidt led his respective league in scoring and is a member of both the FIBA Hall of Fame and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, but has never played in the NBA. He had the chance in 1984 when the Nets selected him in the sixth round but decided against it because he enjoyed playing for Brazil more. You can’t fault him for loving his country, but it’s a shame because he would’ve been routinely matching up against Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and countless other premier players.
It’s peculiar why he declined, because, according to Michael Lee of The Vertical, Schmidt believed he “would be top 10. Ever. For Sure. One guy can’t defend me. You need two, at least.”
Clearly, no one could guard Schmidt — this is justified by him averaging 42.3 points over eight games in the 1988 Olympics, but he’s never won in international play. In fact, none of his five Olympic teams have finished higher than fifth in the standings. As an individual player, he wasn’t very athletic but had a game very similar to Larry Bird with just more volume. A lot more volume.
However, being a top-10 NBA player requires more than just talent, but, of course, it’s possible that he could’ve landed on a contending team and won a few titles, but would his numbers be as eye-popping? Rings are the barometer in this kind of debate; Jordan, Kareem, LeBron, and Kobe are all outstanding talent-wise, but the jewelry sets them apart.
Any stats from the Olympics are from Basketball-Reference, and it’s unfortunate that no one recorded shot makes and attempts because the number would be absolutely mind-blowing. He only faced the United States National Team twice in his career — 1988 and 1992 — and the first matchup featured “amateur” players. That first game in 1988, the United States handed Brazil one of its three losses and Schmidt registered his lowest scoring game that Summer, albeit he still dropped 31; the game before that he dropped 44, and he followed up that game with 39, 55, and then three straight 40-plus point games.
In 1992, the Dream Team beat Brazil again, dismantling them 127-83 but Schmidt still dropped 24 against the greatest team ever — but would that have been an indication of how his NBA career would’ve gone?
He probably would’ve averaged a few more points a game because he wouldn’t be matched up against all those Hall of Famers in an NBA game, but would it be enough to stick out? Let’s take the 1987-88 campaign for example: in order to crack the eighth spot on the PPG leaderboard, Schmidt would’ve needed to average 25 points; to crack the top three, he would’ve needed to average 30 at a time when the league was, arguably, at its deepest.
To lead the league he would’ve needed 36, but something tells me Jordan’s competitiveness wouldn’t allow that.
The icing on the cake for that hypothetical is that the league’s champion, the Los Angeles Lakers, didn’t have anyone in the top 10, and Byron Scott was their leading scorer at 21.7. So, what does that mean? It means that proficient scorers are guaranteed to win a title, but this is evidenced through history.
What almost guarantees a title is sharing the sugar, and Schmidt was not prone to that. It’s a running joke how Kobe never passed but still averaged close to five assists per game for his career. On the flip side, Schmidt averaged less than one assist per game for his Olympic career. I can draw a conclusion from that, combined with his point totals, and say that Schmidt didn’t look for assists. At all.
That type of play wouldn’t fly in the NBA, but what’s great is that we don’t if he would’ve changed up how he played.
Oscar Schmidt was undoubtedly a fantastic scorer during his time. Do his talents mean that he would’ve been a top-10 player? We don’t know. And we never will.
Follow me on Twitter