He is the Olympics’ all-time leading scorer (1,093 points), the leader for most points at one Olympics (338 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics) and has four of the top-five highest single-game scoring records – 55 against Spain, 46 against the Soviet Union, 46 and against Puerto Rico in 1988 and 45 against Puerto Rico in 1996 when he was 38 years old. In 1988, he averaged 42.2 points in eight games. All that scoring earned him the nickname Mao Santa – Holy Hand. “Because I played too much,” Schmidt said when asked to explain his scoring.
Asked about his favorite Olympic moment, he didn’t talk about one of his 40-point games. He recalled a missed baseline jumper near the end of Brazil’s 110-105 quarterfinal loss to the Soviet Union. A made would’ve tied the game. “At that Olympics in Seoul, I felt we could win the Olympics,” Schmidt said. “I missed that shot and that shot remains here.” He pointed to his head. “Not just because we lost the opportunity but because our coach was fired,” he said.
He said the Games have also given him a chance to meet the newest member of the Jazz — Boris Diaw, the former Spurs veteran who plays for France. “I’ve talked to Boris in the (athlete’s) village,” he said. “He’s a really nice guy. (Leandro) Barbosa played with him in Phoenix, and he say only good things about him. I think we have a great team, some nice guys joined our team, and we expect (to) do better (this) season.”
Jazz point guard Raul Neto loved his Olympic experience, even if it forced him to do something he’d never done before — cheer for Argentina. “No, never,” the 24-year-old said when asked if he’d ever cheered the country that is Brazil’s rival on any and every stage. “Not even in basketball, not soccer. It’s a weird situation. But that’s the way we gotta cheer for Argentina then we’re going to do it.”
The fans cheered Huertas but screamed over Scola’s words. His intentions were sincere and heartfelt. “South America is a great place. It’s fun,” said Scola, who has been representing Argentina for 21 years. “The way people cheer sports are fun. We just cross the line sometimes. If we could just stop right before the line, it’s going to be the best show ever. It’s going to be beautiful. People are smart. People are creative. If we can just make people to understand that it’s just a game, it’s not [war] and all that, it’s going to be much better for everybody.”
Having overcome testicular cancer and knee surgeries and battled other injuries throughout his 14-year career, Nene hasn’t always found a sympathetic audience in his homeland. Nene also had other disputes with the Brazil basketball federation over insurance concerns, which makes these Olympics only his fourth international competition since entering the league with Denver in 2002. Though the fans and Brazilian media have been hard on him at times, Nene refuses to hold a grudge. “We didn’t communicate very well, but right now we’re on the same page,” Nene said. “They have my back. They have our back and they understand everything that I’ve been through, that’s what makes it so special. All those years, working and sacrificing my body, everything for my family, for my friends, for my country, for my Lord, for everything. Now is the moment. I’m always going to give my best.”