SANFORD, Fla. – When it comes to sports in Brazil there’s no bigger name in soccer than Ricardo Kaká and no bigger basketball icon than Oscar Schmidt.
On Tuesday at the Orlando City Soccer Club’s training facility the two friends took a moment to chat while Schmidt was in town with family just as Kaká was preparing to head out for a U.S. Open Cup match in Chicago.
Kaká presented the Naismith Memorial Basketball and FIBA hall of famer with a personalized No. 14 OCSC jersey before the two shared stories of how they met many years ago.
Kaká, a former FIFA World Player of the Year, is in his first season in Major League Soccer. He’ll captain the MLS All-Stars against Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur next Wednesday.
Schmidt skipped his chance to play professionally in the United States after being selected in the sixth round of the NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets in 1984. Because pro players were forbidden from playing on national teams until 1989 (1992 was the first year NBA players appeared in the Olympics) he opted to play for club teams internationally in Brazil, Italy and Spain before retiring with 49,737 career points through all competitions.
While in Italy he became a favorite player of a young Kobe Bryant and in 1987 he would help Brazil end the U.S. team’s 34-game win streak in Indianapolis in the Pan American Games, marking the first loss at home for the local national team.
Schmidt had no such luck against the Dream Team of ’92 though as he finished with 24 points in a 127-83 loss for a team that finished 2-3.
But could his sharpshooting style have been as successful in the NBA as it was throughout much of his time on the national stage? That we’ll never really know is what’s intriguing about the legend of Oscar Schmidt.